This blog is a personal view of how it feels to be the Vice-President, and then the President, of CIPA. These are my own words, not CIPA’s: tongue-in-cheek, often irreverent, sometimes satirical. They are written for people with a sense of humour, a broad mind and a generous and forgiving spirit. And talking of spirits, they contain quite a lot of references to gin, which I like drinking. If you think you might find this type of writing disturbing, please do not read any further.
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!
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.
Congratulations, everyone.You have just elected the most un-Pee-like Pee that CIPA has ever
had.This is a proud and historic moment
18 May 2015, 11 pm
Obviously, now I am President I get to stay in only the best
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??!
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
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
Then we have a proper inspiring speech by the Detective
Superintendent who chases Cybermen, and everyone wishes she was our new
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?
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.
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
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
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
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
The only person who has not progressed her allocated session
particularly much is of course me.I try
to make this seem deliberate.