Novak Druce Executive Partner Suspended from USPTO for 2 years for Inadequately Supervising Non-Lawyer Assistant

Novak Druce Executive Partner Suspended from USPTO for 2 years for Inadequately Supervising Non-Lawyer Assistant

USPTO Office of Enrollment and Discipline: Tracy W. Druce, D2014-13

A settlement was reached between Tracy W. Druce, an executive partner at the American IP firm Novak Druce Connolly Bove & Quigg LLP, and the USPTO Office of Enrollment and Discipline for Druce’s alleged breach of 37 CFR Section 1O.77(c) of the USPTO Code of Professional Responsibility for not adequately supervising a non-lawyer assistant.

The non-lawyer assistant had submitted knowingly false statements to the USPTO with the intent to deceive between the years 2004 to 2006. [9] The non-lawyer assistant had fabricated email confirmation messages, affixed USPTO receipt stamps to mail that had not been received by the USPTO, fabricated mailing dates, backdated certificates of mailing, and forged Druce’s signature on various papers filed to the USPTO. [10-14]

Although Druce was responsible for the non-lawyer assistant, [8] he was not aware of the above misconduct, [16] and he admitted that he did not adequately supervise the assistant. [17] The non-lawyer assistant declared that he engaged in the above conduct without Druce’s knowledge and kept his misconduct secret. [15,16]

One form of misconduct that Druce admitted knowledge of was that the non-lawyer assistant signed Druce’s signature to application papers filed to the USPTO in many patent applications. [14]

Druce has withdrawn from the register of practitioners. [18]

The parties agreed upon the following sanction: If Druce seeks reinstatement to the register of practitioners, Druce will be suspended from practice for 24 months. [20 a] If the reinstatement is granted, the suspension will be stayed, [20 b] and a 24 month period of probation will commence during which he may continue to practice. [20 c,d] Druce is also required to contact clients that were affected by the misconduct and inform them of the misconduct. [20 f-aa]. A Notice of Discipline is to be published in the Official Gazette that discloses the misconduct. [20 hh]


This disciplinary proceeding demonstrates the importance for even the most senior of practitioners to adequately manage their staff, or risk extreme consequences. Druce was disciplined for actions carried out by his staff even though those actions were found to have been conducted in secret and without Druce’s knowledge.

This decision loses some of its forewarning value given that Druce was actually aware of at least some of the misconduct of the non-lawyer assistant. Druce was aware that the assistant had signed Druce’s name to many application papers submitted to the USPTO. It is unclear how much weight was given to this fact, and how the settlement may have turned out if all of the misconduct had occurred without Druce’s knowledge.