Cook County Record

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Stem cell products maker demands ex-patent lawyer pay $3M for 'incompetence'

By Jonathan Bilyk | Dec 13, 2016

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A Skokie-based maker of products to enhance stem-cell therapies has sued its former patent lawyers for $3 million, alleging their “incompetence” over the past two years cost them the chance to secure patents on certain stem cell therapy innovations and market the associated products.

On Dec. 9, JoinTechLabs Inc. filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against attorney Robert L. Knechtel, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based patent lawyer associated with the Chicago intellectual property law firm of Wiemelt Knechtel.

In the complaint, JoinTechLabs said it hired Knechtel and his firm in January 2014 to file several patent applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and attend to other legal matters between the company and the USPTO.

However, in the months and years that followed, the company said Knechtel repeatedly failed to file required forms and meet deadlines imposed by the USPTO.

For instance, JoinTechLabs referenced a letter it received from Knechtel in August 2015, which accused the USPTO of mistakenly sending a “final Office Action” from October 2014, which pertained to one of the patent applications, to JoinTechLabs’ previous attorney.

However, JoinTechLabs said it later learned the USPTO did not err in sending the notice to the company’s former lawyer, as Knechtel had allegedly “failed to properly file a Power of Attorney and change of corresponding address in the patent file.” While the USPTO purportedly had sent Knechtel notice in May 2014 that his power of attorney application had been denied for Knechtel’s alleged failure to file a certificate required by the USPTO, “he did not attempt to resubmit a corrected Power of Attorney at that time,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit further accused Knechtel of then attempting to continue representing JoinTechLabs before the USPTO, even without the proper power of attorney on file.

The lawsuit said Knechtel’s alleged failure “to follow the proper procedures of the USPTO” caused their patent applications to become “abandoned.”

“(JoinTechLabs) lost valuable patent rights as a consequence of Mr. Knechtel’s gross negligence and/or willful misconduct,” the lawsuit said.

In 2016, JoinTechLabs hired new lawyers to replace Knechtel. Yet even in the face of repeated demands for the required documents related to JoinTechLabs’ patent applications, Knechtel has yet to produce certain key documents and filings, the complaint said.

As a result of Knechtel’s alleged “incompetent action,” JoinTechLabs said their patent applications have never been filed, and their patent rights have remained unsecured.

The lawsuit included a count of legal malpractice against Knechtel and the Wiemelt Knechtel firm.

The plaintiffs have asked the court to award them $3.1 million. It does not detail how the damages request was calculated.

JoinTechLabs is represented in the action by attorney Joseph Cwik, of the firm of Amin Talati Upadhye, of Chicago.


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