Balancing a duty to a tribunal and a duty to a client can paralyze a lawyer. The task raises difficult questions about how to reconcile competing obligations as an advocate and as an officer of the court. Individuals licensed to prosecute patent applications must decide how to honor both their obligations to the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and their obligation to successfully prosecute patent applications. This burden can result in willful blindness, where the patent attorney or patent agent (“patent practitioner”) limits inquiry into information that may bar a patent application. The recent Federal Circuit opinion in Therasense may have eliminated the judicial “duty to inquire” doctrine that kept these obligations in balance. This Issue Brief argues that there is a need to protect against willful blindness and proposes a resurrection of the eliminated doctrines.
Brandee Woolard, The Resurrection of the Duty to Inquire After Therasense v. Becton, Dickinson & Co., 12 Duke Law & Technology Review 41-63 (2014)