Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The best thing about our President

1 December 2014, midnight

I lie awake being scared.  The President is losing her voice.  So I am scared that if she does not find it again by Wednesday, I may have to chair the Council meeting in her stead. 

To be fair, I am probably not the only person who is scared by this prospect.

I am not surprised the President is losing her voice.  She works harder than almost anybody I know.  While I am wandering around the country basically looking for tea parties to go to, she is out at proper serious meetings with proper serious people, explaining CIPA’s position on things I didn’t even realise had happened.  While I am jumping up and down shouting about changing stuff and new projects, she is quietly getting on and making things happen.  And while I am writing a not-so-serious diary about Biscuit Pixies and pantomimes, the President is writing letters to the Baroness IP Lady Minister and the presidents of overseas IP groups.

She also has a proper day job, which she must surely be doing in a parallel universe because there is no way she would have enough time to do it in this one.  In my parallel universe I am mostly watching washing machines go round; every now and then I turn up to the day job and meddle a bit and nick some paper clips, but although I enjoy this very much it is not exactly high-powered.

The best thing about our President is that she can act really scary when she wants Council to shut up and listen.  But if you sit her down with a drink and some CIPA members to talk to, she is nice as pie.  She is also, despite being scary on Council, a Proper Woman.  Unlike me, she can look after a handbag properly.  She can choose elegant clothes and fashionable shoes and she knows how to wear them without looking like she’s tripped over a dressing-up box.  Yet she can talk about patent law like she is Wikipedia personified, and if she did that to me in oral proceedings I would staple myself to my files in despair.   

Maybe the answer, if she still has no voice on Wednesday, is for me to sit behind the President with a script.  I can talk; she can mime and look scary.  I will try to stick to my script better than Mr Parkinson Davies did.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Student induction day #1

1 December 2014

I do love the student induction day.  The new recruits are always so enthusiastic, so full of the stuffing they have not yet had knocked out of them.

But I shouldn’t talk about stuffing this close to Thanksgiving. 

This year we are treating the students to our spangly new-format afternoon session.  Instead of allowing them to snooze through my immensely fascinating talk on How to Write a Good Business Letter (which no-one needs to know now anyway because FYI no-one writes letters any more OMG DYNKT?), we allow them to talk amongst themselves for forty minutes about what they might want from CIPA if they cared enough to be bothered.  During these forty minutes I wander around facilitating the discussions, which means handing out sweets.  Then we all gather round Mr Davies and his flip chart and he writes down the students’ suggestions.  Soon the flip chart looks better than our Strategic Plan.

So this is what the students want from CIPA:

  • Mentors.  This is an optimistic idea, I suspect.  Patent attorneys are not naturally the nurturing sort.
  • Collated information about IP attorney firms, both for potential recruits and for potential clients.  Forgive me, but in order to collate data don’t you need a proper database?  So that one’s dead in the water until we get our whizzy new CRM system.
  • More social events, such as a CIPA sports day or a CIPA University Challenge attempt.  Can you imagine what patent attorneys would be like on University Challenge?  They would spend most of their time construing the questions.  No, that would not work at all.  But a sports day…hmmm… jousting tournament, anyone?
  • A fireman’s pole leading directly from the third floor to the hostelry below.  Now you’re talking!  We could use it to transport Council members straight from their monthly meetings to the monthly happy hours.  To make sure they had all arrived safely we could do a Trumpton-style roll call at the bottom: Vee-Pee, EyePeePee, Onssek, Eggsek, Peeee!!

To round off the afternoon, we interview Mr Heap from IPReg.  Mr Davies pretends to be Michael Parkinson and asks Mr Heap some deep and meaningful questions like What is regulation? and Why?  We have given Mr Davies a script to work from, but it bothers him not one jot.

While all this is going on, there are also some exciting events unfolding, which require the Officers to drop everything and make momentous decisions and stuff.  I have great fun going into the room where the students are milling, and then excusing myself to go through the firmly closed Door of Importance (which is the door to Mr Davies’s room), and back out to the students, and back in through the Door of Importance again, just so they are in no doubt about my exalted status.  I am not actually doing anything to help behind the Door of Importance, other than to tell the Officers that the students are still there.  But people seem to cope without me on both sides so I figure my skills are probably best put to use opening and shutting the Door of Importance in order to impart a sense of gravitas to the proceedings.  We need more gravitas.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

CIPA makes a friend

27 November 2014, 3 pm

This afternoon the other Officers and Mr Davies and I are busy extending CIPA’s vast Circle of Influence.  We meet a Very Important Man.  This man tells the Government what to do and what to tell other people to do, or at least when it comes to professional business services he does because that is the area he is in charge of.  So basically it can only be a Good Thing to be this man’s friend. 

The problem is that he looks like he has a lot of friends already.  He is not going to be won over by a packet of biscuits and an invitation to play Top Trumps® after the meeting.  No sir.  Not like my new best friends forever, the Dutch Apple Cake Pixies.

Also we will scupper our chances altogether if my safety pin exceeds its elastic limit at a critical moment.  I can tell that when they asked me to leave my rucksack outside the meeting room they were half hoping I would stay behind to look after it.  In fact let’s be honest about this: they were probably three-quarters hoping.  But I felt it was better that the Important Man should see CIPA for what it is and make his own decision about whether to call a therapist.

Actually, though, the Important Man says he would be very happy to help us, so long as it doesn’t take too long because he is quite busy that day, and the day after, and he says the issues we have about UPC representation rights are exactly the type of thing that his Council needs to know about in case there is a damaging effect on UK businesses and the Government forgets to do anything about it.

And I say: what representation rights?  What UPC?  Would you like a biscuit, sir?  But I cannot stand up to hand round the biscuits because the safety pin has attached me to the back of the chair.  And it is ever so slightly just possible that the others had a hand in this.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Safety pins... and the importance of IP

27 November 2014, 8 am

I ate so much yesterday that I cannot now get into my posh suit.  Sadly, I have reached that stage in life where even an elasticated waist isn’t enough, because my actual waist can expand more quickly than the elastic.

I will have to get an extension.  To the elastic I mean.

27 November 2014, noon

Wearing my posh suit, a safety pin and a bit of a gap (I’m sure it is not that obvious), I venture out to meet another group of patent attorneys.  We hold the meeting round a picnic table.  They tell me I am very honoured, because usually lunch is not half as elaborate as this and not all of their visitors get a pudding course as well.  I consider offering to say grace for them, for a small fee, but they look a hard-nosed lot and I suspect their definition of value for money might not be that accommodating.

My elasticated waist is also not that accommodating.  I am obliged to say no to the pudding course because I am not sure of the tensile strength of the safety pin.

We are supposed to be talking about CIPA, but actually we have a far more interesting discussion about the value of IP to industry.  We wonder how come business people would rather spend their money on virtually anything before they spend it on a freedom to operate opinion.  So they will get an accountant, who will look at their accounts and add in an extra entry for “accountants’ fees”; and they will get a lawyer, who will make sure they have some impenetrable documents to fight about in the future; and they will get a marketing expert to build them a brand, possibly under someone else’s trade mark.  They will get IT consultants so that their employees can communicate with one another; and HR people to deal with the fall-out when they do.  They will get a health and safety audit, a website, an anti-bribery policy and an account with the local caterer, not to mention insurance against accidentally burning any of these.  They will get business mentors, who are related to other business mentors and thus have a head start on the networking front, and who have a lot of experience of being business mentors which makes them good at it even if nobody can quite define what it means.  But they will not call in a patent or trade mark attorney if they can help it, and nor will any of the other people they have brought in first.

Perhaps this is because talking to an IP attorney is like taking your car for a service: you always seem to leave with more problems than you thought you had, and the sensation that ignorance would indeed have been bliss but is no longer an option.

Or perhaps IP really isn’t that important?  I find it hard to accept that my whole life has been dedicated to something that isn’t important, but I guess it can’t be ruled out.

It would help, of course, if IP were included in MBAs.  This is also something we must work on.  At present an MBA is more likely to include a module on office canteens than on IP strategy.  This fact gets me quite impassioned, but I have to calm down when I feel the safety pin yielding.

After all this, there is relatively little time to talk about CIPA, but we do manage to discuss how the Institute can help the profession to recruit the best Mega-beings.  I reckon that if every office had an IP strategy like every office has a cold water dispenser (because a tap just isn’t good enough these days), then surely more people would want a career in IP.  Again we come back to the MBA point.  I attempt a deep breath, in the interests of keeping calm.  But the safety pin reminds me, in no uncertain terms, that breathing deeply is not actually an option right now.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Le posh French meal avec les Black Book Pixies

26 November 2014, 8 pm

Once again I appear to be stuffing my face in the pursuit of CIPA business.  We are at Le Posh French Restaurant qui est just down le road from CIPA.  We are saying thank you to the Black Book Pixies for all their hard work on the 7th Edition and all the hard work we are hoping they will do on the 8th Edition.  Because the Black Book does not appear at the publisher’s overnight; it takes whole shedfuls of work to compile.  And this year it is going to be even harder to write because the Chief Black Book Pixie has told everyone to write it shorter.  Apparently it is supposed to fit on a book shelf, not to be a piece of furniture in its own right.

The Black Book Pixies ask whether I might be able to contribute to the 8th Edition.  I do not think that would be a good idea, in view of my somewhat wayward literary style.  However, I say, maybe I could attempt a brief summary of each section, to lure the reader in.  For example:

Section 1(2)        This section is about patenting software.  Dream on.

Section 55           This section is about Crown Use.  From it you will learn that the Government can do whatever it wants.  You may have known this already.

Section 76           This section is about amending a patent application.  Basically, you can’t.  Forget it.  Make a cup of tea instead.

Section 125         This section is about how to interpret a patent claim.  Only the courts can really decide this, so you can advise whatever you like so long as you have insurance.  Claim construction involves looking at the prior art, looking at the alleged infringement, checking whose side you are on (eg with reference to recent invoices) and then making something up.

Section 60           This section is about infringement.  If you do not know this by now, you are reading the wrong book.  Have a cup of tea.  Have a career change.

During le posh meal we raise a few toasts, or as the French would say, pains grillés.  We pain grillé The Queen, who I’m sure is a big fan of the Black Book.  Then we pain grillé past editors and contributors.  And then I stand up, which is not straightforward since I am completely stuffed with le posh French pudding, qui est very similar d’un Instant Whip® mais avec les fancy bits sur le top, and mumble a few thank yous of my own.  “Thanks guys,” I say.  “Yeah… thanks.”  I cannot think of anything more so, unusually in the context, I sit back down again.  Everyone looks relieved.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Regal goings-on

26 November 2014

The Grand Tour continues with visits to two London firms.  Mr Davies and I are treated like royalty, which never happens at Council meetings and which I am enjoying immensely.  I am thinking that perhaps Andrea On Tour is a good thing for everyone.  And it is of course possible that Council would prefer me to spend the rest of my Vice-Presidential term on tour rather than causing trouble at meetings. 

At one of the firms, we are shown around the office, and we get to nod graciously at the hard-working fee earners as we pass.  This reminds me that I must issue a Proclamation about the types of regal stuff I can do when I visit people.  For example, let it hereby be known to all my loyal subjects that for £105 I will declare open your new stationery cupboard (£110 if you also want me to cut a ribbon; £90 if I get to smash a bottle); for £125 I will press “Go” on your new records system (please boot up the computer first; I cannot do this); and for £150 I will bless an application for re-establishment of rights before you send it off.  I can also unveil plaques and wall-mounted hand dryers for a mere £68 each, £62 if there are two or more and £350 for a complete toilet block.  For £90 I will pronounce your office very smart, and for £190 I will pronounce your staff very smart too, although only if they are.  Obviously.  My fee for a speech is £550 per hour, because it is not always easy to source straw.  I will accept bunches of flowers and boxes of paper clips free of charge: hand them to Mr Davies who will carry them for me.

After the office tour, we are taken for a most regal lunch.  Mr Davies orders fish finger sandwiches and a beer, which kind of spoils the regal effect.  I order a tart which contains something no-one has heard of, so the waiters make something up about it being a type of cheese, only one says it is like goat’s cheese and another says it is like Pecorino and yet another says it is like a BabyBel® so I am not sure they know any more than I do, but anyway it is a very nice tart and tons more sophisticated than a fish finger sandwich.

At the afternoon meeting, we have been preceded by the Dutch Apple Cake Pixies, who are my new Best Friends.  We talk about CIPA Congress, the one-time CIPA ball, happy hours, relationships with IPReg, the Journal and the new e-newsletter, corporate membership possibilities and recruitment challenges.  I am supposed to be taking notes because Mr Davies has explained to me that although there is no official job description for the VeePee, obviously note-taking must be part of it otherwise they would not have given me a free pen from the CIPA stationery cupboard.  But I cannot write fast enough and I am getting Dutch apple cake crumbs everywhere.  It is tough being VeePee.  I think I might rather be the Chief Eggsek.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Time for some CPD webinars!

25 November 2014, 7 pm

Oh, the glamorous life of the VeePee!  I am in another hotel room.  It too is dim and yellow, only without the macaroons this time.

I am sitting at my laptop, with my socks on my hands.  As if this were not sad enough, I have actually been on Twitter® twice already.  And now I am going to organise some CPD webinars.  The first will be about performance management: this means making sure your employees don’t take the mickey.  The second will be about IP portfolio management, but this is not about making sure your IP portfolio doesn’t take the mickey; it is about checking every morning that you still have the same number of patents that you had the night before, and whether they still cover the things you thought they covered and whether anybody (in particular your competitors) cares any more.

The third webinar will be about patent infringement laws across Europe.  It will compare and contrast the systems in Germany, France, the Netherlands and the UK.  This is important because when the UPC comes in, the law will say that all these contrasting systems are in fact the same, and we will need to know how much the same they are so that we can advise our clients which of the jurisdictions is likely to yield the best same outcome.

Or have I misunderstood?

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Lunch with the Kats

25 November 2014, 1 pm

From the trendy part of London, I head off to an IPKat lunch.  This is for people involved in writing or editing or publishing things to do with IP, proper serious things usually.  Everyone there works for a journal or a publishing house or is one of the IPKats themselves (I have ACTUALLY met an ACTUAL IPKat, can you believe that??!  Luckily, they do not treat me with the same disdain as the cat-that-shows-me-its-bottom at home). 

When people ask me what I do and why I am there it becomes a tad embarrassing, because in truth I am not entirely sure why I am there, so I have to mumble about writing this little blog thing that makes fun of, well, of my own work really, and it doesn’t sound too impressive put like that.  However, the journalists prick up their cat-ears when they hear that I am Under Investigation for damaging CIPA’s reputation, because suddenly I become a martyr to my work and to the noble cause of Freedom of Speech and we have not had a martyrdom in the IP world for quite some time. 

Later, I talk to the Top Kat and he meets our Chief Shouty Person Mr Lampert.  We think maybe CIPA and the IPKat should run some sort of joint event.  But IPKat events must always be free, says the Top Kat.  I am tempted to say, that’s OK, nobody wants to pay for a CIPA event anyway.

The best thing about the lunch is that I meet up with an old friend that I have not seen for over ten years.  We exchange made-up stories about how we have spent the last decade.  I tell him I have done some vaguely childcare-related activities, some vaguely IP-related activities and a sabbatical.  He says he is running his own practice as a highly successful barrister and writing acclaimed IP textbooks.  I say I have become Vice-President of CIPA, but it was by accident I think and now I am in trouble for not being a very good one.  Then I say you are not supposed to laugh at that. 

Still, it is good to meet people of the same vintage as oneself; you can tell them virtually anything because you know they remember just as little about the past as you do.  And by tomorrow they will not even recall having the conversation.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Big CIPA Happy Family

25 November 2014, 10 am

Mr Davies and I meet some more CIPA members in a trendy part of London.  CIPA members seem to be everywhere these days.  One of them is a solicitor, who was so keen to become part of the CIPA community that he has started training as a patent attorney.  So we must be doing something right.

We talk a lot about commercial training, and about people in private practice learning from people in-house and vice versa.  I am tempted to refer to this as cross-fertilisation but I am worried that will come across as rude so let’s just call it heresy instead.

We also talk about extending CIPA membership to other IP interest groups, like solicitors and searchers and tech transfer officers and IP administrators.  This too is heresy.  But it might be good heresy because then people wouldn’t have to go to the lengths of training as a patent attorney in order to feel part of the Big CIPA Happy Family.  It is a pretty desperate move, embarking on patent attorney training; usually people only do it to avoid ending up as an accountant.

I am all for opening up CIPA membership.  The more members we have, the more time Mr Davies and I can spend eating biscuits with them.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Stir-Up Sunday

23 November 2014

Today is the day you are supposed to make your Christmas pudding.  It is called “Stir-Up Sunday”.  I figure that if all that’s involved is stirring, then even I ought to be able to do it.

There is a Christmas pudding recipe in a Delia Smith book.  It is quite a long recipe, but if you take the big picture view you can précis it down to:

                1 bag of muesli + 1 bottle of rum + 1 jar of mixed spice

This seems to work OK.  We stir in a five-pence piece (pre-soaked in Dettol® – I am not stupid) and leave it to steep for 24 hours.

Thus inspired, I turn to the Christmas shopping.  It is only a month till the Big Day and there is a lot going on at CIPA before then, so I have to start early.  But Christmas shopping is easy these days.  I go online, find something that looks reasonably edible, and order 36 of them.  Then, because I think I ought to help with the Christmas dinner too, I go online, find a nice bottle of wine, and order 36 of them as well.  Easy peasy.

I hope people like their fish pies.


24 November 2014

Nice porridge.  Bit of a festive flavour to it, actually.  With high notes of… mmm, Dettol.


Will my children believe me when I tell them that the steeping process results in the addition of a plastic pot, some cellophane and a Sainsbury’s® label? 

– Possibly not, but then, they don’t believe that thing about Father Christmas either.  They say: if Father Christmas were real he wouldn’t have brought us those beef lasagnes last year.  I say: yes he would, I mean yes he did, and he put reindeer meat in them specially.  And then everyone cries and refuses to eat lasagne ever again.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Social media for the exalted

20 November 2014

Some people have complained that my diary could compromise public confidence in the IP system, the Institute and its members, not to mention the dignity and good standing of the patent profession.  I am in Big Trouble.

So, in steps the Internal Governance Committee (da-da-da-DA!), whose job it is to ensure that everyone does everything properly at CIPA, especially the people holding Exalted Positions. 

(Just so you know, there are four Exalted Positions in CIPA: the Pee, the VeePee, the EyePeePee and the Onssek.  There is also the Chief Eggsek, but he is not so exalted, he is only a plumber really, and he has to do what the Pee and the VeePee tell him.)  (Last week we told him to eat a banana standing on his head.)  (He is still trying.)

I think the IGC find it odd that anyone should mention the word “dignity” in the same sentence as my diary.  I have never been dignified.  I have never cared much for dignity.  You can’t really, when you traipse in from the Wess Curntry with a can of Red Bull® for your lunch.  And to be fair, people kind of knew that when they voted for me.

Still, you cannot hold office and behave like a bumpkin.  There are standards to uphold.  Collars to press.  Shoes to polish.  Double Windsor knots to be tied and such like.

The other problem for the IGC is that none of its members had actually read my diary until now.  That’s how much of an impact it has made on the patent profession so far.  People who are busy getting on with their jobs have absolutely no interest in the mad ramblings of an anarchic but essentially harmless numpty.

The Committee looks long and hard at the accusations raised against me.  Then it looks long and hard at the Chief Eggsek and says: We need a Social Media Policy so that people who dabble in Twitter® and blogging and other nasty modern forms of communication know how to do it with dignity.  The Chief Eggsek and the Pee and the EyePeePee agree.  The Onssek is not there but I’m sure he would also agree if he were.  The Committee decides that a Social Media Policy must be written forthwith, probably by our Chief Shouty Person Mr Lampert, and when it has been written, someone can read it out loud to me and explain what all the long words mean so that I do not lose what little dignity I have left.

Being a bit of an expert on such things, I have some suggestions as to what the new Policy might say:

  1. If you post a blog, start with a disclaimer saying that you didn’t mean it, you never intended to write it, and it’s all entirely made up anyway.  If you can, pretend you’re not associated with CIPA at all.  Say the Pixies did it.
  2. Use humour only with caution.  Ideally, put it under a separate sub-heading.
  3. Remember that other people have different views about what counts as appropriate.  Therefore do not reveal what you really do on a Friday night.
  4. Do not tweet.  Repeat: do not tweet.  Especially, do not reply to anybody else’s tweets.  If you see a picture of a house with England flags all over it, just walk on by.  If you see a picture of a curry cooked by Mr Davies, steer clear of CIPA the following morning.
  5. Take care on LinkedIn®, because LinkedIn is only actually written by one person, who has a load of different identities and photos to match.  If you try to write something on there yourself, he will rewrite it before it’s published and make it look so silly you’ll wish you’d never bothered.

I want to be able to find my socks

17 November 2014

I am in London again.  Deep joy!  This time it is not CIPA business, or at least I don’t think it is CIPA business though I do seem to be losing track of appointments these days and it is entirely possible that I am indeed here on CIPA business but have forgotten to do it.  I will ask Gary, Mr Davies’s PA.  Gary will know.

Anyway, the main thing is that I am in a hotel and I am feeling grumpy.  Because no matter how posh your hotel in London these days, it will never, ever be decently lit.  When I arrive mid-afternoon, I find four beautiful macaroons awaiting me on the coffee table.  By the time the sun has set, I am struggling to find my own socks.  The lighting is what a more charitable person might call “subdued”, but let’s be blunt about this, it is actually just inadequate.  Several wall lamps generate the combined wattage of five birthday cake candles, but have been covered in lamp shades to reduce the five candles to two.  There is a kind of jaundiced glow to the corners of the room where these lamps lurk.   But they do not lurk anywhere near where I might have put my socks.

I do not want macaroons.  I want to be able to find my socks.  I want to be able to check in a mirror whether I have accidentally put my gloves on my feet instead.  But when I look in the mirror all I see is a depressed, yellow fuzz.  And though I accept that being VeePee is bound to make me a tad depressed, and also that I’m undeniably getting old and fuzzy, surely even an old person doesn’t need to look that yellow? 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Oral proceedings

14 November 2014

Today is Workshop Day for the poor souls on our oral proceedings course.  We make them do mock hearings before a pretend examining division and a pretend opposition division.  And we give them some last-minute problems as well, so that they get a taste for what it feels like to be me at oral proceedings, ie completely out of your depth.

The tutors throw themselves into their roles with gusto.  They frown and scowl and ask awkward questions just like a proper EPO tribunal.  I have to say, they are taking method acting to a whole new level.  I also have to say: is it really healthy to relish someone else’s discomfort to quite this extent?

But the tutors are of course experts.  I am not.  So I let them do the tutoring and the scowling and frowning and I just swan around from room to room pretending to be in charge.  I am not in charge at all, except of the coloured stickers that tell people which groups they are in.  But swanning around allows me to steal biscuits while other people are suffering the glare of a pretend opposition division chairman.  By the end of the day I have just about eaten enough biscuits to make up for the peanut-and-diet-coke granola I had for breakfast.

The delegates are all very polite.  They say thank you for organising the course; it was great fun feeling completely out of our depth and we loved the way you bullied and intimidated us; we have learnt a lot from the experience.  I give them a certificate each, which is probably scant compensation but still better than a decision to revoke.  There are biscuit crumbs on the certificates but they dare not complain with Mr Hallybone looking at them like that, and a biscuit crumb is hardly a substantial procedural violation now is it?

After the course the tutors go for a celebratory drink.  Being intimidating has lifted their spirits tremendously.  I wend my weary way back to Paddington, suitcase in tow, looking anything but swan-like.  It has been a busy week.


13 November 2014, 5 pm

Well, this is a bit of alright.  My hotel room has been upgraded to a suite.  At no extra cost to CIPA, I hasten to add: I would never have got a suite past the Internal Governance Committee and its new expenses policy.

The suite has a jacuzzi, a DVD player, a mini-bar and a kitchenette.  I sit in the kitchenette wondering what exactly it is I am supposed to cook with a miniature of gin and a packet of peanuts, but after four miniatures and a tiny supplement from the bottle in my suitcase, it does occur to me that perhaps I could try putting peanuts into the jacuzzi outlets and watching them get blasted around the bathtub.  Yes, I think that could be most entertaining.  Better than watching a DVD player that has no DVDs in it.  Acksherly though, praps I could put peanuts in the DVD player too.  Jush for a larf.

When you stay in a suite, breakfast is served in your room.  This is a pain because it means you have to get up early and tidy around before the man with the silver tray arrives to serve champagne and strawberries.  You do not want the man with the silver tray to see what you’ve done with the peanuts.

I cancel breakfast.  I can make my own in the kishenette.  From peanuts an diet coke an stuff.  I am a domeshtic goddess, me. 

Sunday, 30 November 2014

CIPA boots

13 November 2014, 9 am

Last night the President went to the annual Past Presidents’ Dinner.  As a token of their respect, the Past Presidents clubbed together and gave her a pair of CIPA cufflinks.  We all know how much a lady loves cufflinks.

The President insists she is very pleased with her cufflinks, but I think she is just being polite.  During the discussions that follow, in which I voice my own views on the subject with all my usual diplomacy and restraint, it emerges that what she might actually have preferred is a nice pair of boots.

This strikes me as a very sensible idea.  What President, male or female, would not want a pair of CIPA boots?  Obviously there would have to be different types of boots for different types of President.  For some there could be hob-nailed boots (I am reluctant to name names here, but it is no secret that the EyePeePee spends a lot of his time amongst engines).  For proper women, like our current President, there could be proper boots, fashion boots, the kind of boots you could wear in the high street without anyone suspecting you were actually a patent attorney.  For people like me, should I ever get to be President and should anyone ever have enough wild horses to drag me to a get-together of previous Presidents, probably a pair of wellingtons would be fine.

So forget the cufflinks, and the CIPA tie pins, and the golf balls and the P6 textbooks.  What we really need is CIPA boots.

Biscuit Pixies in Birmingham!

12 November 2014

There are Biscuit Pixies in Birmingham!  Mr Davies and I have taken our Grand Tour to the West Midlands, and the Biscuit Pixies have got there before us.  Perhaps they are On Tour too.

I am particularly glad of the Birmingham Biscuit Pixies because their produce turns out to be the only thing I have for lunch: I spend the middle part of the day on a train to Cheltenham and the Lunch Pixies do not visit trains, not even to bring green things and floppy bits. 

The train is full of drunken students.  This is very bad form.  When I was a student we only got drunk in the evenings, or occasionally during a chemistry practical.  Getting drunk during a chemistry practical was of course purely in the interests of research.  There were a lot of solvents around and you needed to know which one would work best for the brown sludge you’d cooked in your conical flask, so there was only one way to find out really.  Also you could then have terrific fun pretending the gas chromatography column was a breathalyser, and this generated the most amazing spectra.  You should try it some time.  Only please do not let on that it was the Vice-President of CIPA who told you to.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Meanderers, ditherers & lurid ties

11 November 2014

Since I only have to be in London for an afternoon meeting, I treat myself to a later start.  This turns out to be a bad move.  Mid-morning trains, I discover, are far more stressful than rush-hour ones.

On an early train, bleary-eyed commuters sit checking their emails and falling asleep.  The only sounds are a gentle tapping, some snoring and a bit of dribbling.  Once the train reaches Paddington, the dribbling commuters snap to attention, clear the train in seconds and hurl themselves at the exit barriers like pinballs.  What I’m saying is: they do not hang around.  They know why they’re there, and they Get On With It.

But the mid-morning train is a magnet for meanderers and ditherers.  These are people who think it is acceptable to spend five minutes deciding where to sit, another five deciding where to put their baggage, and a further five, at the carriage door, deciding whether to leave the train properly or not.  It is not acceptable.  Not even remotely.  When you reach the carriage door, you go through it.  And when you are through it, you get out of the way so that other people can also go through it.  That’s how doors work.  And while we are at it, the same thing applies when you reach the top of an escalator, because otherwise you will have an escalator-full of people up your backside.  This is not rocket science.  Concentrate, you stupid people!  Stop talking and concentrate!

At 11 o’clock the train manager asks us to observe a two-minute silence in honour of the fallen.  Hurrah!  At last the Welsh ladies in the seats opposite, of whom there are about 150 at a guess, fall quiet.  The meanderers sit still.  The ditherers desist.  And there is an exquisite, if brief, oasis of tranquillity.  The Welsh ladies go purple with the effort to contain themselves. 

My afternoon meeting, when I eventually get to it, is for the oral proceedings course.  It is our final final planning meeting, and we are still working on our auxiliary requests for the mock hearings on Friday.  It feels just like preparing for real oral proceedings. 

One of the tutors is wearing an extremely lurid tie.  He says he put it on specially for me, because I made comments earlier in the year about his two-and-a-half-piece Lycra® cycling suit, from which he infers a lack of sartorial expertise that only a barrister in a day-glo tie can rectify.  Well I hope he doesn’t wear that tie in his day job: it would probably justify additional damages.

Big CIPA & Little CIPA

10 November 2014, 6 pm

At the end of the Professions Week reception I chat to the Informals Committee.  At long last we are bringing the Informals properly into the CIPA fold.  For too long they have had to cope on their own, and a fantastic job they have done too, but it is time we made a little more effort to support them.

We have got it all sorted.  There will be a Big CIPA and a Little CIPA.  Big CIPA will look after Little CIPA and pay it pocket money to buy drinks and crisps.  But Little CIPA will still be free to make its own money to supplement the Big CIPA pocket money, for instance by selling claim amendments at car boot sales.  (This is a joke, by the way.)  Also Little CIPA will have its own bank account, although Big CIPA will watch it like a hawk for signs of money laundering, excessive profitability or the squandering of funds on undignified things like pork scratchings.

In other respects, the Big CIPA/Little CIPA relationship will follow the standard patent attorney training model.  Big CIPA will look after Little CIPA most solicitously until the point when it becomes clear that Little CIPA knows more about what’s going on than Big CIPA does (this is likely to be in around three weeks, at current rates), or until Big CIPA gets bored of being solicitous.  At that point, Little CIPA will be allowed to go off and do entirely its own thing, so long as it reports back to Big CIPA every few months to confirm that its own thing is going well.  And Big CIPA will sit back smugly and say: “Look how well our Little CIPA is doing!  Doesn’t it make you proud?” and pass it all the rubbish jobs to do because rubbish jobs are good training.  But if Little CIPA cocks anything up, Big CIPA will be Very Busy that day, because getting yourself out of a cock-up on your own is particularly good training. 

Not that I am anticipating any cock-ups.  The Informals of 2014 are ruthlessly efficient.  I just know that on the issues we’ve discussed this evening, they will have emailed me a draft document before I’ve even emerged from the underground at Paddington.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Professions Week

10 November 2014, 4 pm

I manage to get into the House of Commons for the second week running.  This time they do not even complain about my mobile phone, although they do get cross with me for loitering with intent to wait for the EyePeePee.  For this, they make me go and stand outside on the naughty step.  The EyePeePee is still in the Security Area: he is trying to reunite his trousers with his belt, and the two of them with his waistline, and this takes a while for a man who is more used to wearing a boiler suit.  Eventually Mr Davies comes to his aid with a double Windsor knot, and we can all go through to the Professions Week reception.

Professions Week is about making young people aware of all the wonderful things that accompany a professional career, like, um, billing targets, regulatory compliance and client care (ie being available 24/7).  The campaign is especially important for ragamuffins, urchins, pickpockets, guttersnipes and plumbers, who would not normally think of themselves as tomorrow’s actuaries or paralegals but could in fact, with an appropriately timed apprenticeship and a double Windsor knot, scrub up quite well in a professional environment.     

Of course, few people at today’s reception have heard of patent attorneys.  So it is clearly time for CIPA to do a little awareness-raising.  One of the speakers shows us an excellent way to do this.  She has a set of “Top Trumps®” cards for different professions.  At the moment the patent attorney card is conspicuous by its absence, but I am sure we could produce one and I set to work imagining what would go on it.

Intelligence:                                       106

Attention to detail:                         108.19

People skills:                                      –5

Communication skills:                    Please clarify the context

Team working:                                  No thank you

Stress levels:                                      104

Travel opportunities:                      Munich 85; elsewhere 4

                Financial rewards:                            Please see attached tariffs.


On second thoughts, it is probably more fun to play Top Trumps with racing cars.

Kind of like Dick Whittington

6 November 2014

Once again I am out and about mingling with real CIPA members.  Today my Grand Tour takes me through the streets of London.  Kind of like Dick Whittington.  In fact, very like Dick Whittington: I believe he also wandered in from the countryside carrying a pack full of straw.  And he ended up as Lord Mayor.  Look out Boris – if CIPA reject me you've got competition.

But I must stop thinking about pantomime.

First I meet with some people who think my Secret Diary is insufficiently Vice-Presidential.  This is an interesting perspective considering the Bye-Laws say absolutely nothing about what a Vice-President must be and do.  Then I meet with some people who think the Secret Diary represents the entire Vice-Presidential remit, and don’t seem to be particularly disturbed by the fact.  So the bad news is that you cannot please all of the people all of the time.    But on the plus side, you can please a lot of the people most of the time.  Especially if you don’t understand most of what’s going on and are incapable of taking it seriously when you do. 

The second group of people try to tell me they have not volunteered to do CIPA work because they thought you had to be special to join Council or a committee.  A likely story.  Look at me, I say: surely I am all the proof you need that absolutely anyone can join Council these days?  Standards are not that high, I say.  I realise this might sound a little tactless, not to mention un-Vice-Presidential, so I promise instead to publish some information about how CIPA is governed and what the committees are and who can join them.  Then I rush back to Chancery Lane to ask Mr Davies if he knows.
And by the way, why is this cat following me...?

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The return of the Happy Hour

5 November 2014, 7.30 pm

CIPA is not looking quite so proper and prudent right now.  The first Happy Hour for many moons has attracted a lot of people and has indeed made them look very happy.  Happiest of all is Mr Davies, who is busy showing his staff how to tie a tie properly.  It turns out Mr Davies is posher than we thought.  He can do a double Windsor knot.

(Note to self: Mr Davies can have a CIPA tie pin for Christmas this year.)

Some of us stay at Happy Hour for slightly longer than an hour.  It seems churlish not to, really.  I decide that the new Bye-Laws must absolutely make Happy Hours compulsory, and that it should absolutely be part of the Pee’s and the VeePee’s remit to attend every single such occasion to mingle with their subjects.  A good leader should be approachable, and indeed I am happy for anyone to approach me if they are carrying a free gin and tonic.

Following the Happy Hour a group of us go clubbing for a while and then we all throw our car keys into the middle of the dance floor which is fine for me because my car is still down in Zummerzet so good luck to anyone who wants to get home that way.  And Mr Davies ties his underpants into a double Windsor knot and downs a triple Southern Comfort® in two seconds.

And then I wake up.  And it was all just a dream.  In fact I am asleep in my hotel room, which is a lovely hotel room, neither too luxurious as to make it look as though CIPA is wasting its members’ subscriptions on Officers’ privileges, nor too cheapskate as to make it look as though CIPA is a second-rate, poor man’s organisation staffed by plumbers, but Just Right.  In fact, most prudently and properly right.  The IGC would be proud of me.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Big questions on governance

5 November 2014, 2.30 pm

After the IGC meeting there is a Council meeting.  Luckily for everyone involved, I do not have to chair it: the President has cancelled all her foreign travels specially.  They begged her to. 

We talk about rewriting the Bye-Laws.  To do this properly, we have to agree on exactly how CIPA is to be governed.  This is a tough one, because secretly every one of the 26 Council members wants to be in charge, and so does Mr Davies, which makes 27, and there is no way we are going to agree on this unless someone steps in as a ruthless dictator.  Of course, not everyone has time to be a ruthless dictator; in fact, of the 27, probably only 4 would be able to get away from their day jobs for long enough, and one of these is the EyePeePee whose day job doesn’t really count anyway because it’s in an engine shed.  I, however, having little more in my diary than a date with a washing machine, and little more on my skills list than an endless capacity to watch it go round, am sorely tempted by the idea.

But first, let me tell you how CIPA is governed at the moment.  At the top there is Council.  Council is in charge of high-level stuff like strategy and policy and biscuits.  It does Leadership.  (By consensus, naturally, there being 26 of us, so it is a rather ponderous kind of Leadership but it is Good Leadership nonetheless.)  Next down there is the IGC, doing the management and the operational stuff, making sure that CIPA and its financial handbag continue to function properly even when Council members are busy having high-level arguments and dropping biscuit crumbs. 

Next there is the Chief Executive, aka Mr Davies, and his staff at 95 Chancery Lane.  They are in charge of just getting on and doing the things that need doing.  They are answerable to the IGC, which is good because the IGC has lots of questions, like How does this work? or What do we do about X? and the CIPA staff can answer all of these questions.  Also, when the IGC issues numpty instructions, the CIPA staff can gently remind people what it’s like in the real world these days.

But what no-one is entirely sure of is the role of the President and the Vice-President.  The current Bye-Laws are not very helpful on this point.  They say that the Pee and the VeePee can sit on any CIPA committee they like and can chair Council meetings.  It is also well known (although this is not actually in the Bye-Laws; it is more like the problem-and-solution approach which is just so obviously right that there was no need to spell it out in the EPC) that the Pee and the VeePee can wear the CIPA swimming gala medals, a big one for the Pee and a smaller, though no less ugly, one for the VeePee.  And it is accepted, although again not written down anywhere, that the President is entitled to wield the ceremonial gavel and to nick things out of the CIPA stationery cupboard.

Other than that, there do not seem to be job descriptions anywhere.  I suspect this is because job descriptions seem a tad plebeian for someone in so exalted a position.  Having a job description for the CIPA President would be like having an appraisal process for The Queen.

Now, whilst I accept that chairing meetings is a vital job around here, ditto the wearing of swimming gala medals, surely the person who has been elected to stand at the head of our Institute should be doing more than just shouting at people to stick to an agenda.  When we rewrite the Bye-Laws, this is something we need to address.

So what should the President be?  A regal figurehead perhaps, who dons the aforementioned medal and goes forth to meet and greet and smile a lot, and who says yes to everyone but then goes back and checks with Council whether they should in fact have said no?  (Even I could do that.)  Or how about a leader, who drags people kicking and screaming in pursuit of Grand Visions?  Body language suggests that the latter would not be the majority choice, presumably because all 27 of us secretly want to be in charge, and are unlikely to cede power to someone simply because they are wielding a ceremonial gavel and a stolen stapler.

Or should the President be a manager?  Managers read lots of books about monkeys on people’s backs and chimpanzees in their brains, and about doing things in one minute or seven steps so as to have more time for getting an MBA.  A manager’s job is to make everyone feel good about being dragged kicking and screaming, and also to ensure that Grand Visions stay within budget.  And if he is a woman manager, he must do this without being too aggressive because who likes an aggressive woman?

Personally I believe the President’s main job should be to ensure the uninterrupted supply of biscuits.  This is after all quite a tough remit and not everyone would be up to the job.  The self-service checkout machines will do everything they can to thwart you.

One thing we are all agreed on.  Or rather, the others are definitely agreed on, and I have been told I am also agreed on.  The new definition of the CIPA President’s role must specifically exclude straw-dropping, Morris dancing in public, excessive Red Bull® consumption and seditious diary-writing.  And it must require the President to know at least a little about at least something that is vaguely connected with IP.  I am not sure why we need to spell these things out.  Surely no-one would even dream of standing for President if they dropped straw wherever they went??

Sunday, 23 November 2014

On dignity

IPReg’s Code of Conduct requires patent attorneys not to do anything to compromise the dignity and good standing of the IP professions.  OK, so what is “dignity”? 

It may surprise you to learn that I have a dictionary at home.  One of the old-fashioned ones, with front and back covers and some sheets of paper in between.  It says that dignity is the quality of being worthy of respect.  And to some, that appears to mean not stooping below a certain level. 

But perhaps dignity actually means not having to stoop at all.  Perhaps dignity involves recognising that we are all at the same level anyway, regardless of background or job title, age, gender, race, wealth, religion, sexuality or anything else.  No-one should ever have to stoop to engage with another human being.

If you see dignity as something aloof and ceremonious, then there are relatively few human activities that would count as dignified.  Childbirth is not dignified, believe me, and nor are the things that come before or after it.  Scraping a screaming toddler off a supermarket floor is not dignified, especially if there is a half-melted ice cream involved.  There is little dignity in falling in love (or at least, not the way I do it), or falling over your shoelaces when you’ve had too much to drink with your friends (ditto).  And where is the dignity in fear, and in failure?  In illness, pain, grief, death?

But in reality, of course, these are exactly the things which do impart dignity.  Because they make us human.  So why would you want to “rise above” them?  Surely being dignified means accepting your essential human-ness, and being prepared to share it?  Admitting you don't always know what you're doing.  Confessing to a mistake or two.  Letting your hair down; laughing when you shouldn't; weeping when you're supposed to be strong.  Dignity is a human quality; it forgives and accommodates; it is not rigid and rule-based and pompous.

In my view, dignity does not put its wearer on a pedestal.  It sees them continually humbled by their fellow men and women, and constantly out there engaging and learning.  Dignity requires us to recognise and value the things that draw us together, not the things that set us apart.

Dignity is also an anagram of “gin tidy”.  Now there’s something for my Christmas list: the gin cupboard is sheer chaos at the moment. 

Just saying.

Big handbags

5 November 2014, 10.30 am

I am at a meeting of the Internal Governance Committee.  CIPA is very proud to have an Internal Governance Committee, because it shows that we are doing things Properly and Prudently.  Not that we weren’t Proper and Prudent before, but now there are documents to prove it.

We are discussing CIPA’s investment portfolio.  An investment portfolio is kind of like a big handbag that you can stash your wealth in, only it is kept under someone else’s mattress instead of your own and you are not allowed to see it for twenty years or so, possibly because it spends much of those twenty years being passed around between bankers and traders and other undesirable types for them all to have a laugh at it.  Each time it changes hands, someone takes a little bit out for his troubles, until it is quite depleted, and then you get sent a report full of pretty-coloured graphs which shows you the extent of the depletion and reminds you that financial investment is a long term activity.  The expert who delivers the report then tells you that the best thing to do now is to leave the depletions where they are because they are just about to GROW again.  When they do grow again, however, do not be tempted to ask for them back, because the expert is probably not entirely sure where the big handbag is any more.  Investment is a long term activity because you are supposed to do it, forget about it and not bother people again until you die. 

Forgive my cynicism, but if you ever have enough money for someone to offer you an investment portfolio, that is a sure sign you should be putting it somewhere else.  And not telling anyone. 

Anyway, today we have been joined by the man who looks after the CIPA handbag.  He talks about phasing and benchmarking and asset spread.  The other people on the Committee talk back to him about reserves and contingencies and drawing down.  And I sit there wondering if I have enough pound coins to give my children their pocket money this week, because they get very cross if I give them notes and ask for change.  Children are very like taxi drivers, I’ve found.

About the only word that I recognise from the discussion is “risk”.  But it’s OK: we are not taking any.  The man with the CIPA handbag has been instructed not to place it anywhere even remotely risky, because CIPA’s reserves are there for a rainy day of biblical proportions – a Noah-type day – and we do not want to do anything improper with them.  Mostly they are in nice safe government bonds, and who better to look after your handbag than the government?

Well it had better be a diamond-encrusted handbag, that’s all I can say.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

A Big Bang (in the House of Commons)

3 November 2014

I make it through Security into the House of Commons, despite having a rucksack full of straw and attempting to send a text a little too close to the x-ray machines.  This area is usually a Shoot-on-Sight zone, but I am saved by the rucksack: straw is flammable, and a rucksack full of it is not something you want to take a pot-shot at.

On the Commons terrace, there is a posh tent to keep the rain out.  I have never seen a tent with chandeliers before: I guess this is what they mean by “glamping”.  Outside the posh tent, a sheet of builders’ polythene separates the Commoners from the Lords, which I am told is also a Shoot-on-Sight zone for people with rucksacks.  I am not prepared to push my luck twice.

Still, it is reassuring to know that in a democracy, even the most powerful people have to make do with polythene sheeting when the builders disappear for three weeks to collect whatever equipment they accidentally on purpose forgot that builders need.

The event going on inside the posh tent is called “Big Bang”.  Which is a little tactless, really, considering its spatial and temporal proximity to bonfire night.  The event is full of bright-eyed youngsters who have been working on engineering projects and are all fired up (excuse the pun) about science and Powerpoint® presentations.  I talk to them in my best I-am-a-grown-up-but-not-patronising voice.  Unfortunately it comes across as I-am-a-grown-up-but-thick.  So they explain in noddy terms how their inventions work and why they are so excited.  And most of them do a better pitch than your average grown-up anyway; they are not at all intimidated by my posh suit and the straw coming out of me at the corners.

Eventually I get fed-up with not being found intimidating.  I go in for the kill.  “Have you applied to patent this?” I ask one particularly impressive youngster whose amazing and expertly-pitched invention is depicted in sketches on the panel behind him.  He says not yet, but patenting is definitely something he and his team are considering.

Right.  Better get a move on then, because I think you will find that you need to have been definitely considering this yesterday. 

I can tell the impressive youngster thinks I am a miserable old cow and that he has no intention of heeding my advice.  And to be fair, I do think that if anyone is capable of having done something yesterday, it could well be him.

So then, in the interests of Awareness-Raising, I introduce myself to various people with whom CIPA could – in my naïve view of the world – collaborate to ensure that bright young engineers know about patents.  Unfortunately I have not done enough training in basic networking skills, and my introductions fail to impress.  In contrast, the lucky people into whose circles of vision I thrust myself and my straw-shedding rucksack have done enough training in basic networking skills.  They employ the time-honoured technique for dealing with bothersome nutcases: they smile politely, give me their cards and tell me to push off.  Not in so many words, obviously.  But on these cards, by way of contact details, it says Here is a direct link to my spam folder.

Well they are not going to get rid of me that easily.