How do you dislodge a political appointee? Sue her boss for hiring her in the first place. A group of California-based patent attorneys are testing this strategy in federal court in Washington, where they filed a complaint last week against Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez for allegedly stuffing an amateur into two of the department’s top spots.

The four plaintiffs — led by San Francisco-based inventor, patent analyst, and frequent Patent Office critic Gregory Aharonian � say that Gutierrez broke the law by appointing Margaret Peterlin as his deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and deputy undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property in April. They want Gutierrez to fire Peterlin, a former counsel for legal policy and national security to former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, and tap someone with more patent experience (like, say, a patent attorney).