UAT Environment

Tribunal process

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The Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Disciplinary Tribunal decides whether registered attorneys are guilty of an offence and, if so, what penalties will apply.

How the tribunal works

The disciplinary tribunal is a three-person panel including an experienced legal practitioner and two experienced trade marks or patent attorneys.

It only hears complaints that have been put forward by the board.

How hearings are conducted

Hearings are conducted quickly and informally, while allowing for the matter to be properly considered. The tribunal is not bound by the rules of evidence, but may take evidence on oath.

Hearings are conducted in:

  • Public unless the tribunal decides it is not in the public interest or if the evidence is confidential in nature
  • Held in person or by video conference.

Complainants are usually given the opportunity to attend hearings. Complainants may be summoned as a witness.

Summoned witnesses must give evidence and produce all documents mentioned in the summons.

If you are summoned to appear or provide documents:

  • You will be subject to penalties if you don't comply without a reasonable excuse
  • You can refuse to answer a question or produce a document or article if the answer to the question or the document or the article will tend to prove you committed an offence against a law of the Commonwealth or a state or territory.

Tribunal findings

Unsatisfactory professional conduct

If the tribunal finds the attorney guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct, it may:

  • Administer a public reprimand to the attorney
  • Suspend the attorney's registration for up to 12 months
  • Require the attorney to undertake additional continuing professional education
  • Require the attorney to work for up to 2 years under the supervision of an experienced registered attorney.

Professional misconduct

If the tribunal finds an attorney guilty of professional misconduct, it may:

  • Cancel the attorney's registration
  • Suspend the attorney's registration between 6 and 12 months
  • Require the attorney to undertake additional continuing professional education
  • Require the attorney to work for up to 2 years under the supervision of an experienced registered attorney.

Unqualified at time of registration

If the tribunal finds the attorney guilty of being unqualified when they registered, it may:

  • Cancel their registration
  • Reprimand the attorney (if they subsequently obtained the qualification).

Registration obtained by fraud

If the tribunal finds that the attorney obtained his or her registration by fraud, the tribunal must cancel the registration.

Appointing a registered patent attorney to carry on a practice

The tribunal may appoint a registered patent attorney to carry on the practice of a former patent attorney whose registration has been cancelled or suspended.

If a registered attorney is appointed to carry on the practice, the attorney must obtain the clients' consent to act on their behalf.

Appealing a decision

Appeals against tribunal decisions can be lodged through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), considering:

  • A decision to find the attorney ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’
  • The level of penalty imposed.

Appeals must follow the requirements specified on the AAT website.

The board's decision whether to start proceedings before the tribunal cannot be reviewed by the AAT.

Publication of tribunal decisions

The tribunal must provide a written statement of its decision, showing the reasons for the decision and its findings on any material questions of fact.

Decisions will be published in the Australian Official Journal of Patents and on our website.

Past tribunal decisions