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.

Monday, 10 November 2014

A sad moment

2 November 2014

The goldfish dies. 

I have never cared much for the goldfish, emotionally-speaking, and its owner, my daughter, has never cared much for it in the practical sense either.  But there is something rather touching about a small, lifeless fish floating like a misplaced apostrophe at the top of its tank and your daughter’s tear-stained face asking you what can be done.

What can be done?  Not a lot for the fish, I’m afraid; I think we may be a little bit beyond that point.  But the pump and the filter might fetch something on eBay®.  And as my husband suggests, if we’re quick buying the chips it might just do for lunch.

In the end we bury it in the garden and hold a short service of thanksgiving for its under-valued, much put-upon little life, especially the first few days when it was a source of excitement and rejoicing, but obviously not the later years when it started making a mess of its tank and demanding to be fed whilst we were on holiday. 

At least this didn’t happen on Halloween night.  I’d have had trouble explaining myself then.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

A personal message

This post is a serious one.  Possibly the only serious one I will ever do.  So I apologise if you are here seeking entertainment, but please bear with me.

I understand that at least one person finds my “Not-so-secret diary” difficult to understand, is unsure whether to take it at face value, and accordingly feels much of it is inappropriate or offensive.

For the avoidance of doubt, my “diary” is a spoof.  Satire.  It is not intended to be taken at face value.  Thus, for example, my most recent post did not mean that I am actually a witch.  Nor was it intended as a criticism of the purveyors of bath products.

Also, I am not an alcoholic.  I do not really shed straw in meetings and I am actually quite competent at what I do.  But the real me would make far less entertaining reading.

My diary does not express official CIPA views.  I apologise if that was unclear.  When I want to express an official CIPA view, I do so in a different tone and through different channels – at Council and committee meetings, for example; at Congress; in the more formal parts of the Journal; and at meetings with CIPA members and external stakeholders. 

Here, on my blog, I write for the purpose of entertaining.  I write for intelligent readers with a good sense of humour.  I write to raise awareness of CIPA’s work in an accessible and human fashion.  I have been doing so for over four years, and during that time I have received positive feedback from many, many people both within CIPA and elsewhere.  I believe the diary has built friendships for this Institute.

If anyone – whether a CIPA member or not – finds my diary offensive or inappropriate, the best thing to do would be to raise the matter formally with Council.  As Vice-President, I am bound to act in the interests of CIPA and its members, and I am there to serve the Institute’s elected governing Council.  If Council as a body decides that I am behaving inappropriately, then the diary will of course stop.

Until that point, however, I refuse to walk on literary eggshells.

I do try to respond to feedback from individual readers.  But when that feedback reaches inappropriate levels, involving criticisms and queries on LinkedIn and/or Twitter virtually every time I publish a new post; when that feedback begins to look more like bullying than dialogue; when it becomes potentially damaging to CIPA’s own reputation, at that point I get angry and withdraw.  There is plenty of other CIPA work to do.

The diary will continue, for now.  It will remain humorous and satirical, and hence, at times, a little over-the-top.  So please be aware: there are no Biscuit Pixies at CIPA.  Council members do not wear grey suits and steam at the collars: they are lovely, lovely people – open-minded, well-intentioned, committed to the IP profession.  Mr Davies used to be a plumber, yes, but he is an intellectual match for the best of the patent attorneys, a thumping good Chief Executive and exactly what CIPA needs right now.

We really do have green things and floppy bits for lunch, though.  That I didn’t lie about.

Birthday traditions

31 October 2014

It is my birthday, so I am not going to do any CIPA work at all, no sir.

My family are always most solicitous on my birthday.  I think they are worried that having a birthday on Halloween is symbolic of something more fundamentally disturbing, and they are taking no chances.  There is therefore an established format for the day and we stick to it year on year.  Mainly it involves getting me sufficiently drunk that I couldn’t do anything evil even if I tried, though some years I have tried very hard and some years, to be fair, I have been very provoked. 

They always buy me nice-smelling bath products and scented candles.  The candles are to ward off evil spirits, and the bath products are to lure me into having a bath so that they can check whether I float or not.  Sometimes they put apples in the bath too, which do float, and I am supposed to get them out with my teeth, which is supposed to be good fun but I don’t know if you have ever tasted an apple covered in bath oil; it is not nice.

Since it is my birthday, they refuse to let me cook anything, especially anything in a cauldron, and most especially that recipe with the newts’ eyeballs.  They refuse to let me do any housework either, on the grounds that a broom can give you backache and we cannot have the birthday girl getting broom-induced backache.  And at bedtime they decorate my room with garlic and pretty little crosses, and chain me to the bed to avoid me getting disturbed in the night.  It is all terribly considerate of them.

And without fail, the following morning some joker will greet me with: “It’s alright, Mum, you can take the Halloween mask off now!”

Oh ha ha LOL.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

IP builders

30 October 2014

I deliver my speech to some business advisors that the IPO has kindly gathered together.  I tell them that the world of commerce is like a war-zone and that they must do IP triage for the businesses they meet, until the IP attorneys can get to the scene.  I am never short of a metaphor or two, me.

I do not stretch the metaphor far enough to liken their client businesses to the walking wounded, or, as is often the case by the time they reach us, simply the wounded.  I do not mention that some of these businesses could have done with a tourniquet first, to stem the flow of ideas out into the public domain, or with a warning to check the positions of enemy IP snipers before sticking their new brand names above the trenches.  I am not completely tactless. 

One business advisor tells me she thinks there is a problem with the language we use.  Her clients do not like the idea of IP “law”, she tells me, because law is a massive turn-off for people who are not lawyers.  As you can imagine.

And I think: yes!  That is the problem!  We must put an end to our fixation with the law!  There are laws about road use and vehicles and motorists, but we do not go to lawyers to learn to drive.  We do not buy our cars from lawyers and we do not take them to lawyers to be fixed.  IP is not law; there just happen to be laws about it. 

At the start of the process, I think, we are not lawyers at all.  We are scientists and engineers, who can understand our clients’ inventions and tell when they are trying to pull the wool over our eyes with gravity-defying apple pickers and statistically insignificant data (“Yes, but did you test it on anyone who wasn’t a member of your family and eight pints of cider more dilute than they should have been?”).  We are communicators, who can explain these inventions in a manner sufficiently verbose and complicated, and sufficiently short on punctuation, that barristers and judges can understand them.  And we are business strategists, who can keep the barristers and judges away from the IP for long enough for a business to make money out of it. 

We are not IP lawyers; we are IP builders.  We should roll up our sleeves, allow our trousers to sink to gravity-defying, anatomically-undesirable levels and arrive in hard hats, with dirty fingernails, three weeks after we promised to.  We should whistle a lot, and half-way through each claim set we should disappear for another three weeks on the pretext of collecting some statements of invention we didn’t bring with us the first time.  And then our clients would feel less intimidated.  And we might not have stopwatches and posh time-recording systems and invoices printed on parchment, but we could still charge whatever we wanted because people would just be abjectly grateful that we had come back to finish the claim set at all.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Risk assessment, Wess Curntry style

29 October 2014

Patent attorneys are traditionally risk-averse.  This is fair enough considering the costs you have to pay if you take an ill-judged IP risk and don’t get away with it.  So it is only proper that CIPA Council should take a cautious approach to anything that hasn’t been subjected to a comprehensive risk assessment.

But I would like to introduce you to risk assessment, Wess Curntry style.  Because, as I have discovered this half-term week, there is a whole new approach being trialled on the roads of North Somerset.  We will explore this using a few simple scenarios: try them for yourself, and see how you score on the Wess Curntry Risk-ometer.

  1. You are a bit unsteady on your pins.  Even with your zimmer frame.  You cover about three metres a minute, and that’s if you remember to look where you’re going.  You are standing at the side of a busy road.  There is no pedestrian crossing.  The traffic keeps coming.  What do you do?

Answer: following a thorough Wess Curntry risk assessment, you cross the road anyway.  Thus creating a de facto pedestrian crossing, a couple of dented bollards and a lot of upset motorists.

  1. You are driving a tractor.  The tractor is very slow.  It is also very big, approximately 1.4 times the width of the average Wess Curntry carriageway.  You are waiting to pull out of a concealed gateway.  You know that when you do, half a ton of manure will slop over the side of your trailer and across the path of anything within a seventy-foot radius.  Traffic is busy.  What do you do?

Answer: following a thorough Wess Curntry risk assessment, you wipe your nose on your sleeve and pull out anyway.  Thus creating a de facto farmyard where the road used to be.  And obliterating the guy with the zimmer frame.      

  1. You are in a largish hatchback.  It was built three years ago and serviced three months ago.  It has an engine.  It contains fuel.  There is absolutely nothing preventing it from going forward if you apply pressure to the accelerator pedal.  You are waiting to enter a roundabout.  It is quite busy.  Not terrifyingly busy, you understand, just a few cars and things.  You identify a gap.  If you get your finger out, you and the car behind will have plenty of time to enter the roundabout.  What do you do?

Answer: you take a moment or two to conduct a thorough Wess Curntry risk assessment.  When the moment has passed, you set off into what used to be a gap.  With your finger firmly not out, you saunter your way across the roundabout towards Kwiksave® but hey, look, it is not Kwiksave any more, isn’t that fascinating, shall we pop in, no perhaps not, or shall we, shan’t we, oops, was that the turning?  Thus creating a de facto skid pad in front of the supermarket that definitely isn’t Kwiksave.

  1. You are driving past a newsagent.  Your child wants a Curly Wurly®.  There is, most inconsiderately, no car park slap bang in front of the Curly Wurly stand.  Instead there are some yellow lines, a blind bend, a zebra crossing and a juggernaut parked opposite delivering doughnuts.  What do you do?
  2. You are sitting next to a scarecrow.  The scarecrow is full of straw.  The straw is dry and flammable.  You want to light your pipe.  What do you do?

You get the gist.

This appears to be going on all the time, everywhere I go.  The Wess Curntry must be an actuary’s nightmare. 

So I am actually quite relieved to learn, from papers sent to the Internal Governance Committee to review, that CIPA’s contingency funds are invested in a moderate-risk portfolio and are not going to be frittered away on volatile dotcom bubbles or devil-may-care zimmer frame owners.  Vive le cautious approach, I say!  I have had enough of the risk-takers this week.

Monday, 3 November 2014

The Gin Diaries part four

28 October 2014

There is a gin for the day after a fast day.  It is especially appropriate if the fast day did not work, for example because you ate stuff.  It is called Elephant Gin™.

Elephant Gin is a beautiful, beautiful gin in a beautiful, beautiful bottle.  15% of the profits from its sale go to African elephants.  Which is nice, although I’ve no idea what the elephants spend it on.  The gin contains apple and elderflower and ginger and some weird things you might have preferred to be left in Africa – luckily there is not much can survive in 45% alcohol, even something that started out as a flesh-eating parasite.

This one is an eccentric gin.  It is kicking through piles of leaves because you like the sound they make, even though you are old and dressed like a patent attorney.  It is tap-dancing to ragtime piano music when no-one is looking.  It is eating a Creme Egg® filling-first, using your finger to scoop out the good bits, and the same with the froth on the cappuccino at the station kiosk, that doesn’t come with a spoon.  It is saying yes to everything, because most things you say yes to turn out to be fun.  It is, basically, just asking for you to drink too much of it.  And why not?  It’s for the elephants after all.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The Gin Diaries part three

27 October 2014

The gin for today is No Gin.  I am supposed to be doing a fast day.  But there is nothing fast about a day when the only thing you have to look forward to is 500 calories’ worth of broccoli.

Recently I have been a bit more creative with the 5:2 diet.  For example, I have tried eating for five hours and then fasting for two: this works well if you have, say, a two-hour meeting to distract you, though it is a bit of a faff during the night having to get up after two hours’ sleep and come down for a toasted teacake.  I have tried the 6:1 diet, and the 6½:½ diet.  I have tried doing the 5:2 diet for 5 days and then not doing it for 2: this was very effective at preventing the hunger pangs but not so effective for weight loss.

The most creative things I have tried are the 5:2 gin diets.  For example, there is the one where you are allowed 5 shots of gin but only 2 shots of tonic.  And there is the one where you are allowed gin for 5 days and only a tiny amount of gin for 2 days.  And finally, there is the one where you have nothing except gin for 2 days a week.  This last is my favourite, because I have discovered that there are only 56 calories in a shot of gin, which means I can drink 9 gins (give or take) on a fast day.  And actually that does make the day go faster.  Before you know it the next day’s breakfast has arrived and it is time to eat chocolate again.  Occasionally this diet makes you a ginny-winny bit confused about what day of the week it is, and this is a further plus because the concept of 5:2 becomes meaningless when you can’t remember how many days there are in a traditional week.

The gin for a day when you are doing the 9:9:9 gin diet is absolutely anything you can lay your hands on so long as it is approximately bottle-shaped.  But I can particularly recommend the Portobello Road® No. 171 gin, which is dry and sophisticated.  You drink it with a slice of grapefruit, although you should get someone sober to cut up the grapefruit for you because I believe you are holding the wrong end of the knife there.  It is supposed to taste of liquorice as well as grapefruit, but if you have a numpty palate like mine I have found it helps to drop liquorice allsorts in, just to be sure.

The Gin Diaries part two

26 October 2014

There is another gin called Six O’Clock Gin™, and you are only allowed to drink it after six o’clock.  Fortunately, I am usually up by six anyway, especially if I have to catch the London train, so this doesn’t limit me much.  But the best thing is that now the clocks have gone back, I will be able to start on the Six O’Clock Gin at five o’clock every morning, which is no limitation at all.

Six O’Clock Gin is apparently flavoured with orange peel and elderflower.  Whatever.  Its bottle has a ground glass stopper, so it passes the chemistry practical test, and it is a gin for when you are in a, well, an orange peel and elderflower type of mood.  If you are a sensitive person like me, alert to your body’s internal harmonies, you will realise that orange peel and elderflower moods affect you quite a lot.  Sometimes as often as twice a day.  So this is a lovely citrusy pick-me-up and, unlike in a real chemistry practical, there is not a trace of ground glass in it. 

Today’s orange pith and elderskin mood is caused by having to practise a talk I am giving to business advisors at an IPO event.  It is my job, at this event, to explain the importance of using a proper qualified IP attorney.  And I am to emphasise that the IP attorney must be brought in at the right time, and that the right time is not immediately after everything has gone nipples-skyward.  Although if you wanted convincing that an IP attorney is the person to save a business from decline, possibly I am not the person you would look to.

It matters to me that IP is not tinkered around with by amateurs.  IP is like medicine: you cannot just make it up as you go along.  You might look at your mate’s ankle and guess that the incident with the beer can and the pothole had caused a bit of a sprain, but you wouldn’t attempt to put it in plaster for him.  And yet time and again a client turns up and says here’s one my local IP Wizard patented for me on a TM1, after my successful press release, and here’s my claim 1 specification of goods and my drawing of the one I copied from my competitor, and now can you help me sue them for infringement on a £75 budget – they know to expect it because I sent them a defamatory threat the other day which you can download from my website.  Oh and by the way I have called the website and the IP Wizard said that was okay.

There is clearly some awareness-raising to be done out there in the Real World.  When I have recovered from my orange fluff and elderbottle mood I will be right there on the case. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Gin Diaries part one

25 October 2014

It will not surprise you to know that in my world, there is a gin for every different mood. 

Today’s mood is autumn.  It is brittle and bright and still largely blue-green, but where the trees meet the sky there are comfort colours like sweetcorn and pumpkin and orange rind and nutmeg.  And then the sun goes in, and the blue-green turns pewter and the nutmeg becomes leaves like rattlesnake scales rasping the colour from the pavements.  And then it is time for gin.

So a brittle-bright blue-green gin is Hendricks®, which you pour over green-green cucumber, so I was taught: and you use plenty of cucumber so that it lasts through the top-ups because once you are on your third G&T you may not be able to locate the cucumber let alone slice it.

Hendricks comes in a brown bottle that looks like something from the alchemist’s shelves, like it ought to contain potassium permanganate rather than fresh cucumber green and tin.  It is always a good idea to keep your gin in something that reminds people of chemistry practicals: you will never have to share it.

Not that there is much left to share.

If the above seems uncharacteristically lyrical, it is because I am using a paint brochure as a coaster and whenever I lift my drink (which is often) I get inspired by interesting colour names.  The brochure does not actually mention the colour green-green, but after a gin or three it seems a perfectly sensible tonal combination, all things considered.  No chance of clashing.  Just green on green, two greens, double the greeniness.  I think perhaps it is time to go to bed and watch the clocks go back.


24 October 2014

What an exciting day! 

The Queen sends a tweet.  Spectacular.  #ProudtobeBritish.

EPO staff vote in favour of a strike.  A little optimistic of them, in the context, but hey.  We will miss their coffee breaks.  #ProudnottobeFrench.

David Cameron refuses to meet the EU’s demands for a further £1.7 billion.  #ProudtobeBritishnotEuropean.

WIPO publishes a Practical Guide to Intellectual Property and Folk, Arts and Cultural Festivals, a must-have read second only to last year’s Practical Guide to Intellectual Property and Family Outings which features a special supplement on Intellectual Property and Steam Fairs by our very own EyePeePee.  #ProudtobeinCIPA.

And Mr Davies flies out to Istanbul on what he tells us is CIPA business but is actually an attempt to get as far away as possible from the place where the broken freezer and the broken head gasket are sitting waiting for him.  #Notproud.  #Notproudatall.