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Trademark Attorneys Sanctioned by Supreme Court of California for Violating Their Code of Conduct

Trademark attorneys Elizabeth Yang and Di Li were charged by the State Bar Court of California, California Supreme Court, for wholesale violation of the attorneys’ code of conduct by filing thousands of fraudulent trademark applications with the USPTO on behalf of Chinese entities. The pair of attorneys had allowed these entities to use their information and signatures to file trademark applications without supervising the application drafting process and willfully ignoring the USPTO rules of conduct. Many of the marks filed were nonsensical, having no meaning in any known language, and were filed with no genuine intention of being used for commerce. Instead, many of these marks were filed only to attain brand registry on e-commerce websites. In addition, many of the specimens submitted with the trademark applications were fabricated and fraudulent. These bogus applications contributed to a huge backlog of applications which caused significant trademark prosecution delays by the USPTO.

On March 22, 2023, the State Bar ordered that, effective April 21, 2023, Elizabeth Yang would be put on probation for one year and be suspended from the practice of the law in California for the first 30 days of probation. For Yang to avoid re-instatement of the suspension, Yang must comply with all conditions of probation by the end of the one-year probationary period, which includes compliance with all provisions of the State Bar Act and the rules of Professional Conduct, attending the State Bar Ethics School, and providing a declaration, under penalty of perjury, of her compliance with the California Rules of Professional Conduction and Business and Profession Code. Yang must also provide the State Bar’s Office of Probation with proof of taking and passing the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, as well as correcting all fraudulent trademark filings submitted to the USPTO under her name.

In a separate case, Di Li pleaded guilty on December 1, 2022 to the charges of improper trademark filings and was placed on a one-year probation. Li must correct all fraudulent trademark filings during her probationary period, in addition to satisfaction of various other ethical compliance benchmarks.

The severity of the sanctions placed on Elizabeth Yang and Di Li indicate that the California Supreme Court has backed the State Bar in taking a hardline approach against fraudulent practices in the legal industry in order to safeguard client interests. The hope is that these rulings will dissuade similar fraudulent practices by legal practitioners and maintain the quality of intellectual property in the United States by curbing the number of bogus trademarks filed with the USPTO.

Still, trademarks remain the lifelines to protecting brand recognition in an increasingly competitive world. Trademarks filed with for registration must be of sufficient quality for a streamlined examination process and to ultimately achieve registration with the USPTO. The fact that numerous businesses must now find new counsels to re-file their trademark applications due the willful negligence of Elizabeth Yang and Di Li can result in longstanding negative ramifications. The unethical behavior of Yang and Li undermines the faith that business owners place on their trademark attorneys. So having ethical, licensed trademark attorneys who will perform the due diligence of ensuring the wellbeing of their clients’ trademark portfolios is paramount for all business owners.

We encourage business owners to verify that their attorneys operate in accordance with the standard of ethics they are subject to, and avoid working with those who make cavalier promises of easy and quick filing of trademark applications. We encourage you to reach out to us for any questions that you may have about trademarks or intellectual property matters in general. Wang IP Law Group, P.C. stands ready to help you.

Wang IP Law Group, P.C. is a Los Angeles based full service legal firm that specializes in intellectual property law (patent, trademark, copyright, and licensing agreement), business and commercial litigation, and a wide range of other legal matters including immigration, real estate, and landlord/tenant cases. Our multilingual attorneys represent clients from all over California and internationally from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, and Israel.

If you have questions or would like a consultation in regards to the content of this publication, please contact us by calling (888) 827-8880 or email us at [email protected]. For more information about the firm and the services please visit www.TheWangIPLaw.com.