The US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) announced a final rule amending 37 C.F.R. § 11.11(a)(1) and (a)(3) to eliminate provisions concerning voluntary continuing legal education (CLE) certification for registered patent practitioners and persons granted limited recognition to practice in patent matters before the PTO. The final rule is effective February 27, 2023.

On August 3, 2020, the PTO provided that patent practitioners could voluntarily certify completion of CLE under 37 C.F.R. § 11.11(a)(3). Section 11.11(a)(1) provided that the Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) director could publish whether registered patent practitioners (or persons granted limited recognition under 37 C.F.R. § 11.9) certified that they completed the specified amount of CLE in the preceding 24 months. On October 9, 2020, the PTO published proposed CLE guidelines with a request for comments, and on June 10, 2021, the PTO announced that it would proceed with the voluntary CLE certification in spring 2022. After considering public comments, however, the PTO decided on December 16, 2021, to indefinitely delay the implementation of the voluntary CLE certification.

After further consideration of the public comments, the PTO published an interim final rule (IFR) on November 14, 2022, eliminating voluntary CLE certification and recognition provisions from the rules governing practice in patent matters before the PTO. The IFR provided an opportunity for stakeholders to submit comments by December 14, 2022. The PTO did not receive any comments and therefore adopted the IFR without change. For more information about the rule change, see the Federal Register notice.

The PTO may reconsider CLE reporting for patent practitioners in the future.

Because CLE certification was voluntary, its elimination is not expected to have a significant impact on patent practitioners.

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