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.

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