Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A good profession for an attorneyette

29 September 2014

I watch a programme about the difference between men’s and women’s brains.  Apparently men’s brains are wired from front to back and women’s brains from side to side.  Clearly, then, someone has been installing men’s brains 90° out of alignment.  I submit that having identified the problem, the solution is then obvious: men must walk sideways.

I reflect on how lucky I am to be in a profession where, actually, despite all the faffing about with CIPA tie pins and cufflinks, patent attorneyettes are treated quite well.  Only once has my spatial awareness been queried, and that was by a Yorkshireman back in 1991 whose invention was so rubbish that no amount of spatial awareness would have saved it.  And to be fair, he probably hadn’t met many women before.

Not that I am a Proper Woman anyway.  Most of the time, frankly, I would rather rotate a cross-section in my head than bake cupcakes with an infant.  I do not own a proper handbag.  I am not good at multi-tasking, as women are thought to be, and when I try it things go wrong like I put the infant in the oven instead of the cupcake.  I can read maps, mostly, which women are not supposed to do, especially women with satnavs who are expected to do as they are told and not answer back in the middle of a motorway slip-road.  I get aggressive, particularly with satnavs and cupcakes.  And I can park a car, too, although only if the space is big enough for the car, which sometimes it is not.

So I am all pink dolls and empathy, me.  Perhaps my brain is wired back to front too.  Or more likely, perhaps my brain is wired like a bird’s nest and I am just short-circuiting all the time.  That would explain a lot. 

Still, ladylike or unladylike, back to front or sideways on or bird’s-nested up to the eyeballs, I have probably found about the only profession where virtually anyone can fit in so long as they can draft a multiple dependent claim.  And I can.

Custard Pie Policy??

29 September 2014, 5 pm

There is a lot of CIPA activity on social media today.  I am beginning not to recognise my own Institute.  Blogs and tweets and LinkedIn® discussions, on top of Mr Lampert’s e-newsletter last week?  What is this, a communication strategy or something?

The other blogs and tweets and discussions are about grown-up things like meetings with visiting Chinese attorneys, and the agenda for Congress, and the future of the IP profession.  My blogs are about caramel custard tarts and IT cock-ups.  Let’s hope someone out there has a sense of humour.

29 September 2014, 7.30 pm

…And indeed they do.  On Twitter my blog is referred to as the new CIPA Custard Pie Policy.  I suppose I asked for that.

In fact, I think I quite like it.

Confessions of a new blogger

27 September 2014

My diary is overflowing.  Now that I am VeePee there is so much going on that I need three pieces of kitchen roll a week to write everything down.  I haven’t had time to watch the washing machine go round since June.

There would not be room for all of it in the Journal, unless the erudite articles were removed and the Journal were re-branded as a comic.  Which is not going to happen; even I can see that.

So I decide I will start a blog for all the extra material.  I have never written a proper blog before.  I turn to Google®, which runs my entire life now from writing my shopping lists to remembering my friends’ birthdays (and, usefully, their names), and sure enough Google® can organise a blog for me and suddenly there I am, writing my very own Real-Life Twenty-First Century Web-log.

Shortly afterwards, Amazon® (which must surely be Google® in disguise) recommends a book about blogging; three self-help DVDs for the anxious and the insane; and the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, which is called something like Lots More Shades of Grey or Too Many Shades of Grey or That’s Enough Grey for Now, Really.

I attempt to advertise my new blog on Twitter®.  This is spectacularly unsuccessful due to me not being able to copy and paste the correct something or other.  My daughters, who know all about these things, help me out of my predicament and roll their eyes theatrically.  Then they go on Twitter to make fun of my latest tweets, which have become the key source of family entertainment these days particularly during our plenary washing-up sessions.

Still, at least we still have plenary washing-up sessions.  Who says the nuclear family is doomed?

Monday, 29 September 2014

Fifty shades of Strategic Plan

26 September 2014

On the back of our special not-a-Council-meeting, Mr Davies has written us a fabulous three-year strategic plan, and Council has accidentally approved it.  Now Mr Lampert is busy turning it into a swanky fold-out leaflet to impress everyone at Congress.

Tactful as ever, I tell them the swanky leaflet looks too macho.  I say they must get rid of the photo of the sharp-suited business man with the hard hat under his arm who looks like something out of Fifty Shades of Grey, and replace it with a picture of some girlies eating caramel custard tarts, which is what CIPA is really about these days. 

They put in a picture of some cogs instead. 

Later, they add some salmon pink highlights, to humour me.  I would have preferred custard yellow.

The strategic plan tells us all the wonderful things we are going to do for CIPA members.  It is full of modern stuff like “stakeholder map”, “push communication”, “virtual networking” and “policy playbook”.  I think “policy playbook” sounds a bit naughty, but I like the idea of “mixed social and learning events”, which presumably means being allowed to chat to your friends while someone is giving a Powerpoint® presentation in the background.  We could offer some mixed inebriation and refreshment opportunities alongside.  Yes, I like the sound of that a lot.

CIPA meets the EPO

26 September 2014

We meet with a nice man from the EPO, whose job it is to listen to the whinges of European patent attorneys across the EPC states and tell them how much the EPO cares, and then presumably to go home to the EPO and tell them to get their fingers out.

Mostly we discuss handwritten amendments.  These are a tried and tested way of showing someone how rubbish your original claim drafting was and what you would please like to get away with instead.  The EPO keep asking us to do this exercise using a Word® file, a USB stick and an EPO printer. 

Excuse me, but have you ever tried to use someone else’s IT system when you’re stressed??  IT systems can sense stress a mile off.  They positively flicker with glee at its approach.  They refuse to acknowledge your memory stick, download some corrupting influences onto it anyway, reconfigure themselves and then print pages 3-6, top halves only, to someone else’s printer.  Then they ask if you would like them to diagnose their connection problems, which sounds a little too intimate for me, and which they cannot do anyway and everybody knows that because the diagnosis procedure involves nothing more than a suite of dialog boxes with crosses all over them.  And not once do they apologise.

I speak as someone who cannot even get a sandwich through a self-service checkout.

So anyway, the nice man from the EPO says there, there, you can file amendments by hand anyway and convert them into computer gobbledygook later.  We will give you two months in which to argue with your own memory sticks and LEAVE OUR PRINTERS ALONE AND STOP KICKING THEM.

He also tells us there, there, we understand your problems with deposit accounts.  Which is nice.  And your problems with the evils of optical character recognition, which works even less well than the sandwich recognition systems in the bagging areas of my favourite other pieces of technology.

As for backlogs and delays, he has some wonderful news for us.  The EPO have introduced a scheme for prioritising their workflow, so that when an examiner comes in from his third cup of coffee mid-morning and settles down to a little bit of light examining before lunch, he knows which files to open first.  His tasks are prioritised thus:

                Priority 1 = sorry, but you really do have to do this. 

                Priorities 2, 3 & 4 = have another coffee break.

The genius in this scheme is that every now and then, everything from categories 2, 3 and 4 gets pushed into category 1 and you have to do it anyway.  It is so brilliantly simple that I wonder why no-one at the EPO has thought of it before.  But I suspect the examiners are not going to be pleased when they realise what's happened.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

CIPA Congress: care of the community

24 September 2014

I remember I am supposed to say something in my speech about how great it is to see so many patent attorneys gathered together.  I suspect I am going to need a lot of alcohol to do this bit with conviction.  But it is apparently important that CIPA provides a “community” to which all these eccentric misanthropes can belong, and Congress was the kindest place we could think of to put them.

As a chemist, I find it fascinating to watch a gathering of CIPA members.  Most of the time they bounce off one another irritably, like a bucketful of negatively charged particles.  But if you introduce a catalyst, for example a normal human being, they begin to coalesce, forming sinister huddles and mumbling darkly to one another about added subject matter.  I call this “ironic bonding”.  It is intended to communicate, to the normal human being, that however irritating your fellow patent attorneys, they are infinitely better company than someone who has never learnt how to draft a multiple dependent claim.

I think I will add something to my speech about being nice to Other People.  Especially stupid and unskilled Other People.  I will say it is great to see so many patent attorneys gathered together but perhaps if we could try not to look like vultures it would be nice.  Especially since we are being filmed.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

CIPA Congress 2-3 October 2014

21 September 2014

I must finish my VeePee speech for Congress.  Have you any idea how hard it is to write something serious and statesmanlike, when you normally only do comedy patent specs and secret diaries?  And when your children are shouting at you in the background about personal statements and Minecraft mods and after-school detentions?  My brain hurts so much that bits of straw are coming out.

I decide I will talk about how wonderful CIPA is, because if you say things often enough, apparently, they come true.  Caramel custard tart.  Caramel custard tart.  Caramel custard tart.

And then I will say something about what I see on the horizon for the IP world.  Because someone with my vision and perspicacity owes it to the profession to share her great wisdom, and one day people may be glad that I warned them.  I will warn them about business advisors taking over our jobs, and no-one caring about split infinitives any more.  I will warn them about doom and gloom and awful things like folk using IP as a commercial tool instead of an excuse to argue about etymology.

And pirates, of course.  There be pirates on the horizon pretty much all the time doon ’yur in the Wess Curntry.  Our members need to know about these things.

I was hoping for a standing ovation for my speech, but sadly I am on immediately before lunch.  Nobody gets a standing ovation just before a soup course.  Even if they do a Morris dance in the middle and warn about pirates ahoy.

In the end the Minecraft mod is too distracting anyway.  I start writing about zombies instead of pirates, and my son meanwhile applies to university with a personal statement full of split infinitives and gloom.  It is time to sweep up the straw and call it a day.

Besides which, three caramel custard tarts have just appeared on my desk and clearly need attending to.  I take this as a good omen.  Statesmanlike or not, I think I am going to enjoy this Congress.