When I started Onespot Allergy, I decided to register trademarks in Canada and the United States. My lawyer and trade-mark agent for Canada, David Canton of Harrison Pensa LLP, handled the Canadian registrations perfectly. He recommended Gary Shaffer of Virginia to do the USA registrations. I could not locate any information about Gary Shaffer online when I searched. I’m writing this post to inform others about my experience with Mr. Shaffer to help them make an informed choice.
I met Gary Shaffer in person in London, Ontario, and while he seemed very nervous, I felt reassured by my lawyer’s recommendation and proceeded to retain him. That was my first mistake, not listening to my gut, which said something was not right. Gary asked that I send funds by wire transfer prior to his departure to China, and that it was helpful the funds were coming in now. I found that odd too, but I proceeded and transferred $6,000 US funds to him in September of 2008. That was my second mistake ~ I paid for his services upfront.
Gary last reported to me on March 25, 2009 to advise that there was a deadline of June 19, 2009 on my trademark applications for a response. I called him in June of 2009, and he confirmed that the $6,000.00 I paid covers filing, reports, and a response, everything required for registration of two trademarks. He advised that my only responsibility was at year 5 to 6 to file an affidavit of continued use, and I was on my own for that.
Wondering how matters were progressing, I touched base with Gary Shaffer from time to time by e-mail. Finally, this past September, I insisted on confirmation of the status of my registrations. Gary wrote that he would get back to me in a few days when he returns from China. Shame on Gary, I had to follow up by e-mail twice before he finally responded by calling me. Perhaps he finally called because I reminded him that I’m a client and a lawyer, and I would appreciate the professional courtesy of a reply. I requested a refund of the $6,000.00, less the $750 in filing fees paid on my behalf.
Gary called me on September 28, 2012. He said his “life is in chaos”, that he filed my applications, they went through to allowance, and they’re now abandoned. He said he’d refile them at his expense, and I told him not to do this. In fact, I told him three times during that conversation that he is not authorized to act for me further, as I’ve lost confidence in him. I asked for a refund again, and he said he could not access his paper records, since he’s between the USA and China. He said he “dropped the ball” and would be back in one week and would contact me then.
Do you think he contacted me? Of course not. I had to follow up by phone and by e-mail several times. I was pleased when on October 16, 2012, Gary wrote “You will receive an appropriate refund pending my review of files relating to the services I provided.” On October 19th, 2012, he advised that he had two of my files and would get back to me later that day. Gary fell silent again, and I followed up with him two days later.
After receiving three e-mail messages from me, he replied on October 23, 2012 “I’m not ignoring you. I’m preparing materials to send to you.” I immediately asked what materials he was preparing, since he is no longer authorized to act for me. I thought maybe it was a release to be signed once fees were refunded. I have not heard from Gary Shaffer since then, and I never received a refund, although I provided him with my wire transfer particulars.
I will now file a complaint with the Virginia State Bar Association and with Mr. Shaffer’s professional liability insurer. It is with great disappointment that I wrote this post, but I hope it will help others make an informed decision, should they be considering his services.
UPDATE 14 January 2013: I heard back from Counsel at the Virginia State Bar, who informed me that Gary Shaffer is NOT licensed to practice law in Virginia. IF he has a patent and trademark license from elsewhere, and he limits his practice to that field, he is allowed to practice. I have confirmed that he is a licensed lawyer in the District of Columbia, and I will file a complaint with dcbar.org. I will also contact the Office of the General Counsel of the US Patent and Trademark Office uspto.gov and the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office in Virginia to inquire about a criminal charge.
UPDATE 11 November 2014: I filed grievances with both the USPTO Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) and the District of Columbia Office of Bar Counsel. Gary Shaffer signed a settlement agreement that acknowledged his conduct violated 37 C.F.R. § 10.23(c)(8), which prohibits failing to inform a client of important USPTO correspondence, and 37 C.F.R. § 10.77(c), which prohibits neglect of legal matters” by allowing trademark applications to become abandoned without his clients’ knowledge or consent and taking action to remedy the neglect without the client’s permission.” He is suspended for five months ending December 31, 2014, and he will then be on probation for two years after reinstatement. During the probation period, he is required to receive monthly mental health counseling, submit to mental health examinations, and provide proof confirming no mental health issues would impede his ability to practice law. In addition, Gary Shaffer must implement new docketing and client communication systems and his performance will be monitored by a patent attorney. Finally, Mr. Shaffer was ordered to refund $5,000 to me. I have not been refunded to date. I expect that the DC Office of Bar Counsel will issue a similar decision.
UPDATE 17 December 2015: Though the USPTO Order in my favor was made in July of 2014, I still have not been repaid by Mr. Shaffer. To my knowledge, he is still not reinstated with the USPTO and charges may be laid against him by the DC Office of Bar Counsel.
A blog article was written about the decision by Attorney Michael E. McCabe Jr: http://ipethicslaw.com/former-client-publicly-blasts-attorney-suspended-by-uspto-for-failure-to-communicate/ and the US Patent and Trademark Office decision against Mr. Shaffer can be read by clicking here. Thank you to Mr. McCabe for bringing it to my attention.
UPDATE 9 January 2017: I followed up with the DC Bar, where Gary Shaffer is licensed. I was pleased to find out that because he had been suspended by the Pennsylvania Bar in response to my claim, the DC Bar was able to take reciprocal action and suspend him from the practice of law in the District of Columbia. They couldn’t take reciprocal action based on the USPTO decision, but they could once Pennsylvania fell into place. I then submitted a claim under the DC Bar Client Security Fund, and I learned last month that my Application for Reimbursement to the District of Columbia Bar Clients’ Security Fund was approved, which process took about 11 months. For Mr. Shaffer to resume practising law, he will first need to repay their office.