Monday, 22 June 2015

After the AGM

18 May 2015, 6.30 pm

I drink several glasses of wine in quick succession, to celebrate having made it through my Pee Investiting Ceremony.  I also consume a couple of crackers, some smelly cheese and a stick of celery.  But the wine is better.

There is a carnival going on outside.  People are shouting and cheering and playing drums and from the third floor at 95 Chancery Lane, it is possible to imagine that they are celebrating the election of a new CIPA President.  I know this is not really true, of course, but then I also know that there is not really a Big Bad Wolf.  No matter.  I think I got away with it. 


18 May 2015, 9 pm

So.  I am no longer Pee-to-Be!  I am the real, actual Pee!

Breadstick.  More wine.  Smelly cheese.  Crisps.  Wine again.

Oh look: a grape!

I have spent the last twelve months, as VeePee, waiting to be found out.  It has not happened.  I have learnt many things, some of them about CIPA and some about myself, but the biggest revelation is that you can hold office for an awful long time before people realise you are totally unfit for it.  In fact, they may never realise.  You can drop all sorts of hints – and all sorts of straw; you can confess to knowing nothing, and indeed provide convincing proof of the fact; you can trip over your rucksack, spill tea on a baroness’s aide and drink so much gin that the juniper fragrance wafts ahead of you into the following morning’s meetings.  You can, in fact, be a complete numpty.

And what is the mechanism within CIPA for dealing with this?  What protection do the Bye-laws provide against straw-shedding, biscuit-crumb-dropping wurzels? 

They make you President.

Wine.  Cracker.  Grapes.  Wine.  Peanuts!! 

Congratulations, everyone.  You have just elected the most un-Pee-like Pee that CIPA has ever had.  This is a proud and historic moment for all.  


18 May 2015, 11 pm

Breadstick.  Wine.  Cheese.

Obviously, now I am President I get to stay in only the best Presidential-quality hotels.

Obviously, this is a joke.

Even allowing for the lateness of the hour and the rather worrying specific gravity changes in my bloodstream, it is clear that my hotel room is on the bijou side.  The ratio of bed to not-bed is about 10:1.  There is a desk, and a stool wedged under the desk, but if you want to use both at once – for instance, to sit on the stool and work at the desk – you have to sit side-saddle.  In the bathroom, there is no room for a shower curtain, so when you use the shower, you also sluice down the entire floor, giving a whole new meaning to the term “wet room”.

I shouldn’t complain, I know, because for the price I’m paying it is clearly a privilege to stay here.  And at least the high bed to not-bed ratio means I stand a better chance of ending up in the right place overnight, so long as I don’t accidentally mistake the wardrobe for a guest annex.

Wine.  Peanuts.  Who put this celery in my rucksack??!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

AGM report

18 May 2015, 5 pm

Today is the day.  The day of the Annual General Meeting.  By 5 pm I am a gibbering wreck.

The meeting is as exciting as only a CIPA meeting can be.  One by one the Pee reads out the spine-tingling, seat-gripping motions and each in turn is proposed and seconded and voted for and ultimately – SURPRISE!! – carried.  The suspense each time is hard to bear.  But the genuinely seat-gripping stuff is the Annual Report, which Mr Lampert has designed to look like a proper Annual Report with a cover and pictures and whizzy coloured graphics and even a font size that normal adults can read.  This is a great report, people say.  It is very professional.  And I don’t think they can quite believe it is CIPA’s.

Half-way through the meeting, Mr Davies announces the election results.  (Luckily they are in English, which he is relieved about because last time he checked CIPA’s Survey Monkey® account he was in Portugal drinking port (apparently this was to do with a CNIPA meeting, yeah yeah, like we can’t tell CNIPA is just CIPA with a spelling mistake) and when he logged on again back in London everyone’s manifestos were in Portuguese.  Mr Davies does not speak Portuguese, even after five glasses of port, though he will have a go at anything and therein lies the problem.)

And then as if by magic, the Pee is not the Pee any more, she is the EyePeePee, and the EyePeePee becomes the EyeEyePeePee and we have a new VeePee who is a proper one this time.  And suddenly I am the Pee.  Just like that.

There follows some ceremonial argy-bargy.  Last year’s Pee opens a box and politely shows me the Presidential swimming-gala medal.  I look politely interested in it for a moment, and then we look at each other as if to say Thank Goodness we don’t actually have to wear this thing.  She knows there is no way I am going to let anyone put that round my neck because it absolutely fails to match my posh frock, and she looks mightily relieved about this.  Then we play musical chairs on the ceremonial dais, and the new EyePeePee moves along one to make room for me.   There is probably some Latin we should be saying at this point but we have accidentally on purpose shredded all documents with Latin bits in.

I take my seat next to Mr Davies, look at the notes he has prepared to stop me being totally incompetent on this most important of occasions, and promptly forget what I am supposed to do.  So instead I have a go with the Ceremonial Gavel, which I have never been allowed to do before.  What an honour it is, to be able to wield the Ceremonial Gavel at last!  I feel as though my whole life has been spent preparing for this moment. 

Mr Davies wishes I had spent a little longer preparing for this moment, and then I might actually have remembered what to do next.

After I have banged the gavel a few times and messed up a few procedural motions, I make a little speech and drop some straw again.  In summary the speech says that CIPA Presidents are a bit like the Three Little Pigs and there is a Big Bad Wolf out there who wants to nick our straw before we have finished building CIPA but I will not let him because CIPA is FAB and anyway Mr Davies hasn’t done the plumbing yet.  I say I am proud to have been able to cadge biscuits off people last year and I hope I can continue to do so for another twelve months.  I say that the new VeePee and I will make a good team because he knows some stuff about IP, which complements my skill set nicely.  And I thank everyone I can think of who is even vaguely connected with CIPA because it seems wise at least to start the year with some friends.

It is an inspiring speech, as you can tell, and exquisitely structured.  There are not many chartered institutes that get to listen to speeches on children’s fairy tales at their AGMs.  And although Mr Davies is standing by with the ceremonial gaffer tape, he doesn’t quite manage to get to me in time.

Then we have a proper inspiring speech by the Detective Superintendent who chases Cybermen, and everyone wishes she was our new President instead.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Breakfast in IP - for women AND men

15 May 2015, 4.30 pm

There appears to be confusion over a breakfast meeting which CIPA is arranging for some US attorney visitors.  The first confusion is over the menu.  Some people, it seems, are expecting bacon, egg, sausage, tomato, fried bread and brown sauce.  Others, perhaps more realistically, are expecting fancy-pantsy flaky Continental things.  Personally, since the Americans are coming, I am expecting pancakes and muffins and grits. 

The second confusion is about whether this is a meeting about Diversity in IP or a meeting about Women in IP.  If it is about Women in IP, say the men in IP, then it is Not Fair and we are going to go anyway so ner-ner.  I have no problem with this.  Men are welcome to come to any meeting, whether it is about women or about diversity in general.  So long as they understand that there may not be enough toilets for them.  And they agree not to sit there absent-mindedly scratching their inside legs while someone is offering them muffins and grits.

Either way, there does not appear to be any confusion over the time of the meeting.  Although, one or two of us have questioned the existence of an 8.15 am on a Monday morning.  Who on earth invented that?

Friday, 19 June 2015

A bit like the BAFTAs

15 May 2015, 3.30 pm

Yay!  We are plotting to do some annual CIPA awards!  They will be just like the BAFTAs, only possibly a tiny bit less glamorous, and there will be a special awards ceremony at the Congress dinner to stop people falling asleep over their profiteroles.  I imagine we will have trophies and things too, although if the Presidential swimming-gala medal and the CIPA tie pin are anything to go by, I am not going to get too excited about that. 

What I am, however, excited about is the idea of giving someone an award for being a Good Sort in the IP world.  What will the categories be?  Most accurately-punctuated document?  Longest main claim?  Rudest response to an examination report?  Rudest response to a trainee?  Or perhaps: most amount of money (this is the way Lord Sugar talks so it must be alright) in a client account, or most alternative Alternative Business Structure.

Obviously there will be a President’s Award.  This year it will be for the best cakes and biscuits.  Institute members are invited to send their submissions to CIPA whenever they wish; judging will take place throughout the Presidential year.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Pro bono

13 May 2015, 5 pm

It has been a day full of meetings, and it is not over yet.  This one is about pro bono work.  Why anyone would think patent attorneys would be remotely interested in working for free is beyond me.  We all know solicitors do pro bono work because they want to be seen to be altruistic and cuddly.  They probably have diversity policies too, and do 360⁰ appraisals and team-building events and all sorts of other namby-pamby stuff.  That does not mean we need to go soft too.

However, today’s meeting is with the IPEC judge, Mr Justice Hacon.  The Mister Justice is quite clear about pro bono being a Good Thing, especially for the poor souls who try to represent themselves in his Court and end up getting their knickers in an unsightly twist.  We decide we will maybe talk about perhaps coming up with a proposal to consider, with a view to possibly establishing a potential pro bono group that could, in certain circumstances but obviously not for the time-wasters and the lunatics, provide some free IP advice and representation.  Now and then.

ITMA are at the meeting too.  They are soft as well.  In fact, all of us in the room are of the altruistic type, and we manage to convince ourselves that this is a feasible project and that we can do great things for the IP community in setting it up.  This is the British psyche showing itself again.  When a lunatic or an out-of-luck Nigerian prince asks us to work for free, perhaps we should just say Yes of course and apologise for not offering before.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

My interview with the Police

13 May 2015, 1.30 pm

I go to see one of our Congress keynote speakers.  She is also, as it happens, speaking at the AGM next week.  She is a Detective Superintendent with the City of London Police.  And she is in charge of Economic Crime.  I am guessing this is a seriously large remit, what with everything the banks have been doing in recent years and everything the Government is planning to do next.

The Detective Superintendent is not at all like the detectives in the TV programmes, rushing around in the rain being ill-lit and moody.  She is relaxed and friendly.  She brings me a glass of water and turns a big light on for us and asks me a few gentle questions about Congress.  I feel a little self-conscious with the tape recorder on, but I get over my initial nerves.

The DS used to be in charge of catching burglars and murderers but now she has to catch cyber criminals.  I get the impression she preferred the burglars and murderers, because on the whole they were nowhere near as clever and they kept leaving DNA and fingerprints lying around. 

She tells me some fascinating stories about what the cyber fraudsters get up to these days.  Part of the problem, it seems, is that the British psyche makes us ideal victims.  If a stranger asks a Brit for £2,000 towards a new Gucci® handbag, the Brit’s response is typically to hand over the money and apologise for not offering before.  And probably add a tip.  The only exception to this might be a patent attorney, who would want to know the dimensions of the handbag before paying up.  This means that when a scam email arrives, the average Brit instinctively tries to find a helpful way to reply.

Some victims are difficult to convince that they are victims at all.  Just like the inventor who insists on re-mortgaging his home to fund a massive PCT nationalisation programme, despite a search report full of Xs and a distinct lack of either a business plan or indeed a business, they maintain that they have not been scammed at all and continue to transfer funds to the poor out-of-luck Nigerian prince.  Plus his bank charges, his travel expenses, his “medical” bills and a donation to the local Small Arms Appreciation Society.

After all this, IP piracy seems a little on the tame side.  But apparently the City of London Police are onto it.  Big time.  Only first they have to convince the new generation of internet users that it is not a fundamental human right to be able to download, copy and distribute anything you like, especially if someone else made it.  And the problem here, as with all cyber crime, is that it is just too easy.  How can it be a crime to take something that is so readily available, like blackberries at the side of the road?  In culinary circles, “foraging” has become quite trendy.  So why should you not forage the internet and take home a movie or two to serve with your chips?

I confess I do not know the answers any more than the Detective Superintendent does.  She says that’s alright but anything I do say may be taken down in evidence and used against me.  So I say, Can you not get Doctor Who to sort out the Cybermen for you, he usually does?  But I don’t think that was the answer she wanted.

Anyway, I am glad they did not search me before I went inside the City of London Police headquarters.  It may or may not be a crime to carry straw around these days, but it sure looks suspicious in the middle of London.  Who’s to say I don’t also have a couple of incendiary crab-apples in my rucksack?

Monday, 15 June 2015

Warming up for CIPA Congress

13 May 2015, 10.30 am

The Congress Steering Committee meets.  We talk about the Big Cheese speakers we have lined up.  They are already being primed to make Controversial Assertions so as to stimulate Lively Debate.  The primary intended outcome is actually not so much the debate as a more life-sustaining temperature in the meeting room.  In previous years it has been a little on the northern side.  This year, with sessions on the commoditisation of legal services, the replacement of IP attorneys with Artificial Intelligence, and whether IP hinders innovation, there is a risk that the room will get so hot it will spontaneously combust.  We might as well rebrand the event Hot CIPA. 


Personally, I doubt that Artificial Intelligence could ever be a match for the more astute members of the patent profession.  But if they ever come up with Artificial Social Skills, then we will have to start watching our backs.  And they won’t have to try too hard either. 

The session on AI has been allocated to Mr Davies and the EyePeePee Train Man.  Since the EyePeePee has little real interest in anything that isn’t steam-driven, it has been left to Mr Davies to do the bulk of the getting excited about this.  And excited he is, too.  He has called the session: Disruptive Technologies.  He is very fond of the word “disruptive”, our Mr Davies.  He has had it shouted at him often enough.

The only person who has not progressed her allocated session particularly much is of course me.  I try to make this seem deliberate.