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I have asked this question before and I was told that this simply does not happen.

But nevertheless, is there a protocol that legally accomplishes this?

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    Other than you sue them, report them to the bar and get them disbarred? Do you have even one example of a patent attorney doing this?
    – Eric S
    Apr 27 at 3:41
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    What Eric said and you can ask them to sign an NDA but no attorney I have met will sign one and I have heard a few say that they will not take on anyone as a client who tries to push them to sign an NDA. You are going to have to trust a few people to keep their word and honor their obligations - your patent practitioner is one of them. Also, this is hard to hear but, statistically speaking your idea is unlikely to be worth the risk to steal.
    – George White
    Apr 28 at 2:08
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    I believe lawyers have codes of ethics or else they risk disbarment. Client confidentiality is one of them, I believe.
    – Eric S
    Apr 28 at 3:26
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    Of course you have a basis to sue. Not having an agreement not to steal does not mean you give permission to steal.
    – Eric S
    Apr 28 at 13:36
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    Your rights have not been perfected until a patent is issued, but the concept of the invention is, essentially, a trade secret at the point you talk to a patent attorney. You own that. Also, state bars may be slow to disbar one of their own, but the USPTO OED (Office of Enrollment and Discipline) is not a panel of peers and can relatively quickly strip a patent attorney of the right to be a patent attorney.
    – George White
    Apr 29 at 17:48

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