Nonlawyers at LegalZoom performed legal work on trademark applications, UPL lawsuit alleges

Legal Technology


A complaint filed Tuesday in the Northern District of California alleges LegalZoom has engaged in the “unauthorized practice of law, false advertising, unfair competition and other claims with respect to preparation and filing of trademark applications” before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Besides LegalZoom and its co-founders, the USPTO and the state bars of Arizona, California and Texas are named defendants.

The action is brought by LegalForce RAPC, a patent and trademark filing firm, and its owner Raj Abhyanker, a patent attorney in California.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs claim that they applied for two trademarks through LegalZoom and that the service they received constituted the practice of law. The complaint alleges that LegalZoom “trademark document specialists” who were not lawyers “provided legal advice to the plaintiffs by selecting classification and modifying the goods and services description from the template thereby applying specific law to facts.” The plaintiff recorded and transcribed those conversations with the LegalZoom employees.

Kenneth Friedman, LegalZoom’s vice president of legal and government affairs, said in a statement that LegalZoom follows all legal requirements and applicable ethics regulations. “We are seeing an aspiring competitor angrily lash out after failing to compete in the marketplace. We will not be distracted, but rather will maintain focus on our critical mission of increasing affordable access to the law.”

LegalZoom is no stranger to unauthorized practice of law complaints. In 2013, the Arkansas Supreme Court saved LegalZoom from a class action lawsuit by finding that their arbitration clause applied to claims of unauthorized practice of law. In 2010, the company was sued in Missouri on similar grounds.

In 2016, the North Carolina legislature passed a law that ended a long-running dispute between the state and LegalZoom. The legislation said that the practice of law does not include software that generates a legal document based on a user’s response to legal questions.

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