Has a patent attorney ever "stolen" a client's idea?

Asked 7 months ago - Santa Clara, CA

Has a patent attorney ever taken a client 's idea and filed it as their own? How does one protect against such situations?

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Michael Charles Doland

    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Never heard of it in 35 years.
    You can check out the attorney with the state bar about any past discipline problems and can ask if they have malpractice insurance.

    The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may... more
  2. Brian Kenneth Dinicola

    Contributor Level 13


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Speaking only for myself, I am unaware of such a case. Nor have I ever seen an invention that I would sacrifice my license to practice before the state and patent bars to misappropriate. I have had clients ask me to sign an Non Disclosure Agreement, and on rare occasions I have signed one. The potential loss of an attorney's livelihood should give you all the comfort you need in my opinion.

  3. Dariush G. Adli

    Contributor Level 11


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . Short Answer: Possibly, but exceedingly unlikely

    As you must know by now, there are no absolute guarantees in life. You invariably assume a risk when you disclose your idea(s) to others. However, the good news is that the risk of undue use of your idea by an attorney is very very low as attorneys, as a group, are ethical professionals, and take their ethical and professional obligations seriously.

    At my firm, Adli Law Group, on a few occasions when potential clients have expressed such concerns, we have offered to sign a standard non-disclosure agreement with them to put their minds at ease.

  4. Bruce E. Burdick


    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . That's a frequent question. Asking it exposes you as an utter novice without much common sense, frankly. I don't say that to insult you, rather just giving you an honest response, and letting you know what most patent attorneys think, but don't say, when asked that question.

    Do you actually think a patent attorney would risk his entire career for the off chance that your "idea" is worth taking? I have been practicing for 40 years and have never heard of it, not even once, even with unethical patent attorneys, and don't kid yourself, your invention is not even remotely worth such a risk to any patent attorney. Patent attorneys spend many years and usually well over a hundred thousand dollars to become patent attorneys and are not about to throw that away over some client's invention. We have a law license that should allow us to make good money so we don't have the need to do it.

    I have heard of clients stealing a patent attorney's idea and then using it as their own. That happens lots of times. It happens here on Avvo. We have a lot of do it yourselfers trying to pick our brains for free to get ideas they can use in an ill-advised attempt to avoid hiring a patent attorney.

    Patent attorneys do steal ideas, but not their client's. Just the opposite is the case. We help our clients "steal" the ideas of others, since "ideas" often are not protected against being taken. Designing around and avoiding others' patents is often a patent attorney's very best work for a client. Corporate attorneys are particularly adept at helping their corporate clients steal unsolicited ideas from independent inventors and inventions of competitors, and the patent system is set up to encourage and facilitate just that.

    Instead of worry about your patent attorney stealing your idea, you need to recognize that your best protection AGAINST getting your idea stolen IS your patent attorney and you should not avoid one or insult one by asking how you can protect against them taking your idea. If you really don't trust your patent attorney, you have the wrong patent attorney and should get a different one.

    Not to worry, we are held to a strict duty of client confidentiality. What you tell us, we must keep in confidence or we can get disbarred and lose our law license. Also, what client will ever go to some patent attorney that has been found to steal a previous client's idea?

    Now, invention promoters, they have no ethical obligation and many have no ethics either. But, they are interested more in taking your money than your invention.

    I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is... more

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