Monday, 23 February 2015

The diversity meeting

27 January 2015, 10 am

I am at CIPA, ready to chair the scary meeting about diversity in the IP professions.  My Brilliant-Idea-in-a-can is at my side.

The Lady Minister IP Baroness arrives with her aide in tow.  I offer them a drink.  The Lady Minister’s coffee just about goes OK but my nervousness, together with the wobbliness of the CIPA refreshments table, leads to the aide’s tea ending up in a location almost totally unrelated to that of his cup.  Or indeed of any of the cups.  I engage in some hasty Vice-Presidential mopping-up with quite a lot of kitchen towel and even more embarrassment.

We begin.  The Baroness IP Minister Lady makes a speech about how lovely it is to be at CIPA Hall, which she says has particularly red walls, and about how important it is for the world to know about IP and for IP to be full of diversity.  She tells us heartening stories from her own career, and answers questions about inspirational role models, which let’s face it we are sometimes a bit short of in IP.  This nicely fills half an hour or so, thus leaving me with half an hour less in which to make a fool of myself.

Then the Minister IP Lady Baroness leaves, with her tea-stained aide, and I am on my own.  I look fiercely at the delegates.  I tell them they must be constructive.  And concise.  And we do not have time for anecdotes, I say, glaring at them, because I know how patent attorneys love to preface their comments with stories about things that happened to them in 1962 and that by the end of the story both they and their listeners have forgotten what it is they were commenting on.

They tell anecdotes. 

It is a heartening discussion, all the same.  Everyone wants more diversity.  Everyone has good ideas.  We are going to have an Action Plan and I am going to build another Task Force (da-da-da-DA!!) and we are all going to work together to make stuff better.  We are even going to hold another meeting in a year’s time, to check that we are still making stuff better.

I mention my Brilliant-Idea-in-a-can about university sponsorship.  Mr Davies says it is so revolutionary that he might have to go and lie down.  Not so fast, sunshine: you have a job to do.  Like, tweeting the world about our Action Plan.

Cocktails in cans

26 January 2015, 8 pm

I sit in a hotel room catching up with the 567 emails that arrived while I was looking the other way today.  I decide that only two of them need answering.

Emails done (well, almost), I devote 15 minutes to panicking about tomorrow’s diversity meeting.  Lots of people are going to be there and I will have to motivate them all into agreeing some concrete deliverables, excuse the jargon.  And the Lady Baroness IP Minister will be watching us deliver our concrete agreeables, which is almost as scary as Ms Sear watching you trying to pass a motion, excuse the jargon again.

When the 15 minutes’ panicking is over, I devote another 15 minutes to a cocktail-in-a-can.  The cocktail-in-a-can is a relatively new idea and an overrated one too.  A cocktail-in-a-can is like coffee from a flask: you have to be very uncomfortable, preferably on the verge of exhaustion, despair and/or hypothermia, before it seems at all comforting.  This particular cocktail-in-a-can tastes, predictably, of essence of tin can with cheap lemonade.  The last one tasted much the same, and it was ostensibly a completely different kind of cocktail.  But I have only myself to blame.

Out of the can comes a Brilliant Idea to help social mobility if the Government continues to be unable to find money for student grants.  The Brilliant Idea is this.  You take good scientists and engineers straight from school, you train them to be good patent attorneys (by making them do your patent work for you) and then if you still think they are good and they are billing decent amounts, you sponsor them to get a STEM degree through the Open University or some such institution which will allow them to be students without having to sit through all the parties.  And then voilà!  You have your graduate, you can turn them into an EPA, but you have been making money out of them all along.  And they have not had to pay their way through university, so even the poorest of ragamuffins stands a chance of getting into our exalted profession.

I put the Brilliant Idea back into the can for safe-keeping, eat a large bar of chocolate or two and fall asleep contented.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Holes in trains, monks' beards and partner machines - what a day!

26 January 2015, 11 am

I have coffee with the EyePeePee.  He tells me another interesting story, about making a hole in a train, which strikes me as a fundamentally bad idea and indeed he did think better of it eventually and stop drilling the hole, although only because it was the wrong shape and not because it was a hole per se.  I am wondering if perhaps the EyePeePee has been helping out at South West Trains recently, because that might explain a lot.

Then we discuss my evil plans for becoming a Ruthless Dictator.  I do not think he is impressed.  In fact, he looks distinctly uncomfortable.  At the point when he drops his face into his cappuccino, and emerges frothy with despair, I realise it is time to change the subject and tell him about my alternative plan, which is to become a washing machine engineer.  A ruthless washing machine engineer, obviously. 


26 January 2015, 12.30 pm

The EyePeePee and I have lunch with Mr Lampert (who is CIPA’s Chief Shouty Person) and Rosa Wilkinson (who is the IPO’s Chief Shouty Person For Making Innocent Business People Understand About IP).  While they are shouting at each other I eat a shedful of really lovely food.  The food is of the type that comes in tiny portions, so you know it is such high quality that you can’t afford a whole one.

One of the dishes I order, once I have worked out which way up to read the menu, includes something called “monk’s beard”.  We have to ask the waiter what this is.  The waiter has to disappear for a while and check Wikipedia.  When he returns, he tells us it is a “coastal vegetable”.  To you and me, that’s posh seaweed.  It is so posh, it is not even on Wikipedia yet, but it looks a bit like grass.  This is a relief, in a way: I would rather it looked like grass than like something a monk had left behind at the barber’s.  And actually it tastes alright.  For seaweed.

Rosa, who is from The North, is delighted to find Yorkshire rhubarb on t’ pudding menu, and even more delighted to find that it comes with white chocolate on the side.  As we congratulate one another on our choice of delectable things that are almost as good as caramel custard tarts, we discuss how to reach out to business advisors and bankers and other folk who have a passing interest in IP but nothing yet which quite approaches Enthusiasm.  Rosa says she will make them Enthusiastic.  And I’ve no doubt she will.


26 January 2015, 3 pm

On we go, the EyePeePee and I, to meet some more CIPA members.  This time our hosts are well prepared.  They have come up with some difficult questions for us, so it is like being on Newsnight trying to explain your way out of a public scandal.  And fair enough, really, to ask what we do for the £395 membership fee.  Going round the country chatting to people and eating their biscuits is possibly not enough.

Once we get talking about non-core skills training, everybody looks happier.  If I am understanding correctly, they would like CIPA to build a machine that turns ordinary patent attorneys into partners.  You would go in one end feeling all confident and happy about your job and you would emerge knowing about cash flow and indemnity insurance and unfair dismissal and TUPE, feeling permanently stressed and grumpy.  And I think: yes; I could build a machine like that.  In fact, I could be the head tutor.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Presidential manifesto

I am planning to stand for CIPA President in this year’s elections.  I have drafted a “manifesto” of sorts, setting out what that might mean for the Institute.  I wanted to make it public nice and early, so that people had the chance to challenge and question me on it; to stand against me if they preferred an alternative approach; or to stand for Council or even as Vice-President if they were willing to help me implement it.

Here goes…

Presidential candidacy
Andrea Brewster manifesto

I intend to stand for the post of CIPA President in the 2015 elections.

There is no official job description for the President.  So, I have put together some thoughts on the type of President I might be capable of being and willing to be.  I have included the activities I would like to undertake, and the issues I would like to progress, if I am elected. 

I should point out that many of these would build on, or simply continue, the excellent work begun by my predecessors.

Please, judge me on these.  I hope that they will help you decide whether I am the right person for the role, come the elections in May.


I propose to be a President who leads.  I will lead CIPA as an organisation, its staff, its committees and its governing Council.  I will take responsibility for making things happen.  I will consult with others, and where appropriate I will hold them to account.

I will embrace, indeed promote, change, because I have seen that change invigorates CIPA, and because change is what keeps us alert and in touch.  Ironically, a voice for change is in this context a voice for continuity, because CIPA already is changing; it is growing; it is modernising.  I do not want us to lose that momentum.

SILC & the Strategic Plan

I will push for adoption of the measures outlined in the 2014 Strategic Plan, and for prioritising and evaluating CIPA’s activities and policies in line with it.  I will ensure it is reviewed and updated before the end of 2015, so that our targets remain ambitious yet achievable, and aligned with both members’ views and external developments.

I will ensure that the CIPA manifesto, which we are currently drafting, is used to maximum effect, that it properly informs CIPA’s work and that it too is updated after its first year.

I propose to establish a working group to monitor forthcoming opportunities and threats for the UK profession – whether to do with business practice, competition in the marketplace, regulation or any other relevant issues – and to recommend strategies in response.

Meanwhile, I will aim to make SILC (Status-Influence-Learning-Community) the bedrock of all CIPA’s activities and policies.

Education, training & professional standards

“Learning” is arguably the most important of the four SILC pillars.  It raises our standards, and thus our status, which in turn increases our influence.  At the same time, working together to provide and to participate in learning experiences fosters a greater sense of community.

I will work closely with the new Education & Professional Standards Committee and CIPA’s Head of Education.  Together we hope to:

·         ensure that CIPA’s basic litigation skills course is open for business by mid-2015.

·         prepare a set of “occupational standards” for chartered patent attorneys, and use those standards to inform and shape CIPA’s work on education, training (including CPD) and the promotion of high professional standards.

·         introduce more “non-core” training, in particular in business, commercial and client-facing skills.

·         push forward initiatives to improve training standards across the profession.

·         ensure that an updated patent administrators’ course is ready in time for the September 2015 intake. 

·         continue to professionalise CIPA’s education and training activities.

I will also work with the Joint CIPA/ITMA Business Practice Committee to support CIPA members more proactively, with early guidance and template documents, in matters to do with regulatory compliance and business practice.

Member engagement

In this context, I would hope to continue to do as President what I have been doing as Vice-President.  All CIPA members should know who I am, what I stand for, what I am doing and why.  Equally, I need to be sure I am doing what CIPA members want me to.  And that when I don’t, they are willing and able to tell me.

I will make an effort to meet and listen to CIPA members, in private practice and industry, large organisations and small, throughout the UK, whether students, associates or qualified attorneys.  The “Meet-the-Members” campaign will continue, until all the key regions of England, Scotland and Wales have been visited and, as far as possible, all invitations to visit members have been accepted.  I will of course channel feedback from those visits to relevant committees, and propose new initiatives on the basis of members’ suggestions and requests.

It is important to me that CIPA engages effectively with its members outside London, and I would like to organise a system of regional representatives (whether individual CIPA members or firms) to help with this.  I would also like to see “CIPA HQ” developed as a space that is more welcoming, and more useful, for visiting Institute members: I will work with the Chief Executive and his staff to try to make that happen.

I will report regularly on my CIPA-related activities.  I will support the new Informals Committee and the new Administrators’ Committee, contributing to their publications, events and other resources when they think it appropriate, to ensure that both student and administrator members receive the support they need from their Institute.  In all of these areas I will work closely with CIPA’s Membership Team and its Head of Media & PR, who are striving to improve the Institute’s dialogue with its members and to publicise more and better information about CIPA’s activities.

I promise to be approachable; to listen with humility and an open mind; to talk candidly about CIPA’s current and proposed activities and to encourage members to become involved.  I will try to motivate and to inspire those who work for or with CIPA.

I will never stand on ceremony.  I will make every effort to continue publishing the “Not-so-Secret Diary”, both in the Journal and on my blog, as a way of communicating about CIPA to members who might not otherwise show an interest.  Its tone will remain humorous, tongue-in-cheek and slightly irreverent, because so many of you have been kind enough to tell me that that’s what appeals.

Wider strategic issues

With the IP world expanding so rapidly around us, in terms not only of its size and economic importance but also of its diversity and complexity, I believe it is time for CIPA to tackle some big, strategic-level questions about where we want our profession, and our Institute, to be positioned in the future.  Do we want to be an exclusive guild of master craftsmen, setting the gold standard in our “core” skills of drafting, prosecution and opinion work?  Or do we want to be bolder, to retain our high standards but at the same time to open our membership to other IP professionals, to teach ourselves new skills, to appeal to more and different clients and to promote ourselves outside of our traditional core competencies?

Personally, I am in favour of CIPA extending its remit to all areas of IP and its membership to a wider range of IP professionals.  Of course, at its core there will always be the chartered patent attorney, but the patent attorney no longer works alone and no longer sticks to drafting and prosecution, and I believe CIPA’s constitution and governance should reflect that.  Our Institute should be able to speak with authority on all things IP-related, and to raise the status of the IP system as a whole by sharing its expertise and its impeccably high standards.  As the world of IP expands, I would rather see CIPA at its centre than on the side-lines. 

However, these questions affect the whole membership, and all members should have their say.  I pledge to open a debate on the issue, and if necessary to hold a membership vote, the result to inform our decisions about the direction in which CIPA travels. 

Perhaps the answers can be incorporated into the new Bye-laws; perhaps now is not the right time.  Again, my own view is that rewriting the Bye-laws (neither a frequent nor a straightforward process) gives us a rare opportunity to modernise our structure and our approach.  If that opportunity can be used to improve the long-term prospects for the UK IP profession, so much the better.  But in any event, it is vital to ensure that the new Bye-laws provide sufficient flexibility for future generations of CIPA members, allowing the Institute to evolve to suit the changing IP landscape.  I will fight to ensure that this happens. 

The new Bye-laws will of course be put out to members for consultation before we even think about adopting them.

Management & internal governance

I would like to improve certain aspects of the way in which Council functions, in particular its efficiency, its agility and its focus on outcomes. 

I expect the task of “leading” Council to be the hardest of all.  Our governing body embraces – and rightly so – members from a range of backgrounds: consensus is often impossible, but this must not be allowed to cause a reactive or overly cautious approach.  I will therefore try to ensure that Council makes quick but informed (and preferably bold) decisions; that it achieves measurable progress for the Institute; and that it provides direction and vision in the interests of our members’ long-term futures.  I will encourage the adoption of individual remits for Council members, and contribution and commitment levels in line with those remits.  I will also aim to tighten up the procedural aspects of Council’s business.

In the interests of efficiency, I will encourage the Internal Governance Committee (IGC) to delegate operational matters to the Chief Executive and his staff.  I will support the executive team with their work on upgrading CIPA’s membership database, website and general IT systems, and with the outsourcing of the Journal, to ensure that all of these projects are completed before the end of 2015.  And I will see that the IGC and the Chief Executive together address the issues surrounding the forthcoming expiry of CIPA’s lease on 95 Chancery Lane.

I will continue to help the IGC to tighten CIPA’s committee structure, in particular by encouraging all committees to define their objectives and terms of reference, in line with SILC, and by ensuring that all are effectively chaired and productive.  I propose to instigate an annual meeting between the newly elected officers and the committee chairs, in which to establish priorities for the coming year, in line with the Strategic Plan and the Institute manifesto.  I would like the committees to be a strong and vital structure through which ordinary CIPA members interact with the Institute and its work.

I will also continue to work closely with all CIPA employees, and to encourage stronger and more communicative working relationships between them and the committees.

Representation & ambassadorial

The I in SILC (Influence) is also vital to CIPA.  The better we can engage with our external stakeholders, the more influence we can exert on behalf of our members and their clients.

As promised in my Vice-Presidential election manifesto, I will strive to build relationships, not boundaries, on CIPA’s behalf.  I will seek opportunities to collaborate with other individuals and organisations, to build new bridges and rebuild old ones.  I will do whatever I can to increase CIPA’s influence, both in the UK and abroad; to raise awareness of IP; and to promote the UK IP profession and the CPA “brand”.

With the help of relevant committees, the Chief Executive and the other officers, I propose to:

·         continue to foster good working relations with relevant external bodies, including ITMA, the IP Federation and FICPI; the UK IPO and the EPO; overseas professional bodies and IP Offices; IPReg and the LSB; and the IP Minister, the Professional and Business Services Council and the UK Government generally.

·         encourage ongoing work on a CIPA “policy playbook”, to which the committees contribute with official CIPA position papers and briefing notes for both external and internal use.

·         continue CIPA’s efforts to lobby on behalf of its members and their clients in issues related to the UPC, the EPO, regulation and other areas identified as important in the recent manifesto-drafting meeting.

·         ensure that diversity-related projects from the January 2015 “round-table” meeting are implemented swiftly and enthusiastically, in collaboration with the other participants such as the IPO, ITMA, the IP Federation and FICPI-UK.

·         help CIPA’s Head of Media & PR to organising more such events on significant IP topics of the day, to build CIPA’s reputation as a thought leader in its field.

·         work to raise awareness of the IP professions among potential new entrants, thus helping CIPA members in their recruitment efforts.

I will seek to secure that the relationships we build are with the Institute as a whole, or at least with a team of CIPA representatives, and not just an individual President who holds office for only a year.  Personally I have relatively little experience in areas such as litigation, international IP systems and non-patent IP.  As President I would, however, have the active support of the Immediate Past President, Catriona Hammer, of the Honorary Secretary Chris Mercer, and of the many excellent specialist CIPA committees (for example the Patents Committee, the Litigation Committee and the International Liaison Committee), all of whom would be there to advise and steer and to help me represent CIPA’s interests.

I also hope to continue to strengthen CIPA’s relationship with IPReg, in particular by building a collaborative and business-like working relationship with Michael Heap’s successor and by continuing to attempt a more collaborative relationship with the Patent Regulation Board.  It may be, however, that now is the time to establish a different relationship with our regulator; if that is the case, I will not shy away from beneficial new approaches.

Final words

If I am elected as President, I will lead CIPA with energy, enthusiasm and commitment.  But I will only lead on things I believe are right for the Institute, and I will take counsel on such issues from the CIPA staff, CIPA members, fellow Council members and the committees, as well as from relevant external stakeholders.  I will also delegate wherever possible to those with more expertise than I have on specific projects.

I will be honest, approachable and considerate.  I will bring originality and creativity to the role.  I will be open-minded and I will try to think strategically, leaving detailed management and day-to-day operations to those who are better placed to handle them.  And I intend to be courageous, unafraid to put my neck on the line, to question, to challenge, when it matters.

I ask for your support.  I intend to earn it.

Andrea Brewster

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Some hints on Being Prepared

25 January 2015

I think I have had an argument with a Burns Night.  And I think the Burns Night may have won.  There was whisky followed by haggis, and then misogynist speeches, which necessitated more whisky, and then a couple of hours of what was loosely termed dancing, which just ensured that the whisky reached all the parts of me it hadn’t quite reached before.  There was also some loud music, which may or may not have been bagpipes, but the music did not appear to be synced with the dancing, or at least not in the part of the willow I was supposed to be stripping.

I also won a raffle prize.  It was naff.

Now I am trying to see through the Burns Night hangover to pack up my stuff for another London trip.  Most of it is still in the suitcase from last week, which helps, apart from the toothbrush of course because I did use that the other evening and also I think I removed the dirty washing although it’s sometimes hard to tell.

There is an art to packing up the night before a London trip.  Everything has to be set out in just the right place to ensure you can find it in the dark the next morning and you don’t accidentally brush your hair with a bowl of muesli or put your socks on over your boots.  Some things need to be placed in other rooms, so as not to wake sleeping family members at 4 am.  Your bags need to be packed in advance, because you do not stand a chance of doing that in the dark when you are half asleep, but you must remember where you left your packed bags otherwise you will trip over them and wake your family members anyway.  If it is a cold morning, you will need to start defrosting the car at about the time you pour your muesli onto your hairbrush, but you will not be able to find the de-icer and the car keys unless they too have been left in very precise locations, and “somewhere in the kitchen drawer” does not count as precise in this context.

And you must leave yourself little notes to remind you of those last-minute details like rail card and phone and Red Bull®, but again the little notes need to be somewhere precise and preferably also somewhere light enough so you can read them, or you are scuppered, basically.

On this basis, it is amazing I manage to turn up to as many CIPA meetings as I do, even more so that I sometimes have the right papers with me.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Driving at 60

23 January 2015, 6.30 pm

Sometimes I reach Bristol Parkway and sit in my car and feel too tired even to turn the key in the ignition.  I do not want to drive down the M5 on a Friday evening trying to get to Weston-super-Mare with several thousand other drivers, none of whom really wants to go to Weston-super-Mare anyway (who would?) but all of whom, like me, are too tired to think of anywhere else. 

When people are tired on the M5, they drive at 60.  They drive at 60 because the guy in front is driving at 60.  And the guy in front is driving at 60 because there’s a lorry ahead of him and he can’t be bothered to overtake.  And anyway there’s a guy in the overtaking lane also going at 60 because of the lorry he can see in the middle distance that might at some point require him to overtake.  And another guy going at 60 because he thinks that’s what “variable speed limit” means, like there isn’t a clue in the word “variable”.  And then there’s a guy in the outside lane going at 160 with his lights flashing just when you’re trying to overtake the first four.  And on really special occasions, someone in the outside lane who actually is 160.  (You can preserve people for a long time in the Wess Curntry.  You keep them in caves at a nice constant temperature until they become mature, and then vintage, and eventually blue veins appear, or in some cases a coating of dried nettle leaves.)  (Or perhaps I am thinking of something else.  Cheese, perhaps?)

It takes me ten minutes to muster the energy to exit the car park.  And another ten to get onto the main road.  I hate commuting. 

BUT – it is all in a good cause.  As everyone knows, for CIPA I would happily drive the entire length of the M4, most of the length of the M1 and as far into Scotland as it takes to reach a distillery.  For CIPA I would travel through the night, write through the night, drink through the night, and eat caramel custard tarts till the cows came home (which, where I live, is an actual real event).  My loyalty is infinitely and tautologically boundless. 

I would do anything for CIPA.  Unfortunately, CIPA spends much of its time hoping I don’t.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Defacing flip charts

23 January 2015, 11 am

Today is not a Council meeting.  The purpose of this not-a-Council meeting is to gather our thoughts for a CIPA manifesto.  It is so exciting to think that soon we will have a manifesto of our own, like the Law Society’s only more precise and better punctuated.  Mr Lampert is ready with his desktop publishing kit and I am ready to tell him off for putting macho pictures on the front of the document.

Unlucky Gary has ordered us a new flip chart specially.  There are now more flip charts in CIPA Hall than there are in the whole of Somerset.  In groups of four, we deface them systematically with our ideas about what’s on the horizon for the UK IP profession and what we need to lobby important people about once we’ve reminded them that IP exists.  One of the flip charts has already been defaced for us, although with something more graphic than you would really want to lobby an MP about.

When the flip charts are full, Mr Davies takes over and we talk about something completely different.  But the stuff we came up with is important because it tells us what CIPA and its committees should be looking out for over the next twelve months and I’ll bet the committees will love us for that.  Gary is going to photograph the flip charts so that we have evidence that Council did once do something strategic, and we will put the photographs in the CIPA album.  If you have not seen the CIPA photograph album, do please ask Mr Davies to show it you.  It is a bit cobwebby but extremely dignified.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

This & that & ABS

23 January 2015, 8.30 am

I break into CIPA again.  No-one else has got through the commuter traffic yet so I set off the alarm for the second time in less than a year. 

Good morning! I say brightly when the next person arrives.  The kettle is on and your room is nice and warm and oh by the way the alarm system needs a total reset.  Sorry.

Some others arrive and we hold an emergency meeting of the Joint Business Practice Committee.  Apparently IPReg have been ringing people up and calling them ABSs – which sounds impolite to me – and these people have been getting upset because if you are an ABS you have to have a Head of This and a Head of That and a Policy for This and a Policy for That and also something called a Business Plan, whatever that is.  And you have to fill in a whole load of forms and I am not talking about PCT Requests.

It is all very well if your Alternative Business Structure is a big one.  You can tell your minions to write the policies and fill in the forms and be the Heads of This and That.  But if you are a small ABS, and the “alternative” part of it is just a tiny percentage of your spouse who has not the remotest interest in This and That much less your business plan, it is a bit harder.  In this situation you have to be the Head of This and the Head of That yourself, which is confusing and quite possibly contrary to the rules on conflicts of interest, and you have to write your own This and That Policies not to mention a Business Plan and it is not enough to say in your Business Plan that you are going to do a bit of This and a bit of That and make some money out of it because IPReg will see straight through it.  They will say: Why has your bank manager not rejected this Business Plan for insufficiency?  And you will say: because my bank manager has so little interest in my business that he would rather paint the outside of his whole house with nail varnish than look at my paperwork, and the same applies to my “Customer Relationship Manager” that the bank is delighted to tell me has been appointed to manage my relationship from 250 miles away using a database that can’t even spell my name right.

So you see, there are some of our members, in smaller practices, who are getting a bit tetchy about all these developments.  They have only just recovered from having to have a client account and then not having to have a client account or perhaps only having to have a client account for This and That, and then from having to comply with the Money Laundering Regulations or perhaps not having to comply and then wondering if they need a Policy for it anyway just in case.

We agree to do a webinar.  A webinar is a giant anaesthetic to soothe away your troubles, at least until after it is over when you kind of have to do something in response.  This one will be a great webinar because you will be able to watch someone filling out the forms for This and That and to ask questions about The Other.  And CIPA will show you how to make a Business Plan out of sticky-back plastic without upsetting a tiny percentage of your spouse or indeed your Customer Relationship Manager.  How good is that??

Proper chairing

22 January 2015, 10.30 am

Once Mr Davies has got over his excitement (which is easily achieved by Unlucky Gary making him a second cup of tea), we hold a meeting of the new Administrators’ Committee.  I am not myself an IP administrator: I do not know nearly enough about IP and have spent much of my working life asking IP administrators to get me out of scrapes.  But I am chairing the meeting because I have a reputation for Getting Things Done, even if it is largely by accident that this happens or is due to the metaphorical tractor marks that I leave by riding roughshod over everyone.

This time I do some proper chairing.  We even propose a motion at one stage.  Having proposed it, we second it, carry it and minute it.  You see: I know my stuff after all.

We agree how to progress the updated patent administrators’ course (this tractor will be driven by Ms Sear), and the IPAG conference, and potentially an advanced course.  We discuss what else CIPA can do to support IP administrators, instead of graciously allowing them to pay their associates' fees and then forgetting all about them.   

Ms Sear tells me afterwards that she was scared of all my proper chairing and motion carrying.  I doubt it, somehow.  But if she and I could ever get over our mutual terror and work together on something, we would be an indomitable combination, yes sir.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

What a drip!

22 January 2015, 8 am

I walk through Paddington Station dripping Red Bull® behind me.  I had naively thought that Red Bull cans were water-tight but it appears not: I now have a rucksack full of the stuff which I am carrying on my back like a portable, slow-release saline drip, only stickier.  My papers are soaked, ditto my trusty London A-Z.  I have to buy a new rucksack, and then crouch in a corner of Accessorize® transferring the wet, sticky contents of the old one into the new one.  This is awkward to say the least.  I then wring out the old rucksack and hand it to a by now incredulous store assistant for disposal.

Quite apart from anything else, I am cross because I do not like sharing my Red Bull, much less distributing it amongst a station-full of strangers.  However, as I head off for Chancery Lane, trailing stickiness and Red Bull fumes wherever I go, I console myself with the hope that by the time I reach CIPA I will have a string of good-looking petrol-heads in my wake.  Fat chance.

At CIPA I find an ultra-excited Mr Davies playing with an ultra-fast new computer.  The new computer can open an email without having a long think about it first and questioning your motives.  Apparently many of the CIPA computers are slow because they are still trying to talk to old computers that are no longer in the network.  It is possible there are parallels here with Council.  In which case, there is hope for us yet.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Governance & bingo

10 February 2015

Last week, I missed a talk at CIPA about governance.  This is a shame, I think, because I have a lot to learn about governance.  Like: what does it mean?  And: is it catching?  And: what has it got to do with CIPA?   But I do have some ideas of my own, particularly at this time of great debate about the Institute’s future, and I imagine they are not that far off what the speaker said to Council.

I believe CIPA is in need of innovative solutions if it is to become the unique thought leader it aims to be in the dynamic world of intellectual property.  Strategic partnerships with like-minded influencers, by way of an integrated policy initiative, should lead to optimised leverage and a robust and authoritative stronghold.  Detail-orientated tactical discussions should be taken offline, in order to explore potential synergies between seasoned experts and award-winning, possibly revolutionary, policy gurus, but the Institute must circle back to its ground-breaking proposals prior to incepting a rationalisation of objective mind-sets.  Giving legs to this initiative will necessitate 110% upward collateral drift and a blue-skies approach to top-line, criteria-driven superlatives.  Fundamental complexities must be bottomed out and timelines extraparabolated.  However, an interactive approach will facilitate the achievement of cutting-edge actionable takeaways, push-back of envelope boundaries, affirmative contextuals and optimised deliverable takeaways. 

And we all like an optimised deliverable takeaway. 

So.  I believe I have more than completed the Buzzword Bingo challenge I took up via Twitter® the other day.  Result.

Women in CIPA

20 January 2015

Now I am trying not to be miffed about the comments on the IPKat blog about Women in IP.  I am not doing very well at not being miffed about these either. 

Some people are nasty about women.  Some other people are nasty about men, especially although not exclusively the men who are nasty about women.  Some people are nasty about CIPA.  Everyone is being so nasty.  I cannot help thinking that if they would all just get together for caramel custard tarts like the patent attorneyettes do then the world would be a better place. 

Let us think about CIPA for a moment, dear reader.  It has its second ever female President.  Its third ever female Vice-President.  It has 5 women on its governing Council, out of 25 alphabetically-labelled but extremely erudite members and me.  As a token of appreciation of its second ever female President, it gave her a set of CIPA cufflinks.  It still regards the CIPA tie pin as the ultimate in Christmas giftware. 

BUT.  Among the CIPA staff, there are both women and men, in a variety of roles.  When we interview for new recruits, Mr Davies Tipp-ex®es out the names from the CVs to prevent any kind of discrimination.  (Sometimes he gets carried away and accidentally Tipp-exes out important information, too; it is well known that Tipp-ex fumes can impair your mental functions.)  Gender does not seem to be an issue there.

And on Council, I have to say I have not experienced misogyny.  Surprise, yes.  Outrage, yes.  But to be fair, this was not because I was a woman but because I said surprising and outrageous things.  Loudly.

Now, it is well known that my optimism knows no bounds, and this is largely because I have little clue what’s going on around me.  It is possible that this makes me so thick-skinned that I have accidentally not noticed anyone disrespecting me for being a patent attorneyette.  But I actually think not.  I actually think the people governing CIPA are a broad-minded lot when confronted with a straight-talking woman.  They don’t much like change.  They don’t much like risk.  They’re not that keen on the 21st Century.  But women, well, women are the least of their problems.  There are claims to amend, typos to correct: these are much bigger issues.

Monday, 9 February 2015

A not especially effective woman in IP

19 January 2015

I am trying not to be miffed at the fact that there is going to be a “Women in IP” forum and I have not been invited.  I am not doing very well at not being miffed.

I am prohibited from speaking at the Women in IP forum because I am a nasty private practice person, and all that private practice people care about is making money, unlike corporations.  So if I were to take to the stage, I would probably embarrass everyone by plugging my firm shamelessly when I was supposed to be talking about patent strategies or something. 

I would of course be allowed to plug my firm shamelessly if I paid for the privilege I mean sponsored the event.  This is not going to happen because medium-sized firms like mine cannot afford to sponsor London conferences; we prefer to sponsor people doing a three-legged pub crawl or a Pimp my Pasty competition.   

Oh well.  It is their loss, not mine.  I may not know much about IP, and to be honest I may not be an especially effective woman either, but I do a thumping good monologue about straw.  And I have an important take-home message for Women in IP: do what you like; do the unexpected; drop straw everywhere – the men will not know how to react and while they are busy not knowing how to react, take over.  Mwa ha ha!

How to run a training course

18 January 2015

We are going to re-run our course on EPO proceedings.  There is still a whole load of people queuing up for the chance to feel out of their depth and demoralised.  And so successful was the last course at recreating that unique frisson of unpredictability and despair that oral proceedings provide, we feel it is our duty to open up the experience to a wider group of victims.

Obviously I have learnt a lot from organising last year’s course, so this year it should be easy.  In fact, in the spirit of expertise-sharing, here is my blueprint for How to Run A Training Course.

  1. Begin by writing a project plan.  Make it bold and optimistic.  Format it as a brightly-coloured table.  Distribute it widely.  None of this matters: nobody will read it anyway.
  2. Write detailed instructions for everyone mentioned in the project plan.  Nobody will read those either.
  3. Write a syllabus.  Ditto.
  4. Embellish the syllabus with boxes of Learning Outcomes.  Be honest about these.  If you expect that by the end of the course, students will be able to:
    1. describe the early symptoms of paranoia,
    2. generate their own panic attack and
    3. understand the value of cognitive behavioural therapy,

you should say so.

  1. Keep calm when team members email you at random points during the project and ask what they’re supposed to be doing, when, where and why.  Do not weep when they ask you what the course is about.  Refer them to the project plan and the embellished syllabus.
  2. However, if they cannot remember your name, then you are allowed to weep.
  3. When they ask for more time to complete their allocated tasks, always grant them an extension.  This is a face-saving measure.  They are not going to complete their tasks in time anyway.  You may as well be gracious about it, and maintain at least a semblance of control.
  4. Bin the project plan.
  5. Write the course manual.  Base it loosely on the material your team members have supplied, only pretend they were working to the same syllabus as you.
  6. Bin the syllabus. 
  7. Do not under any circumstances allow other people to edit what you have written.  It is up to you where you put your commas and Capital Letters.  Take heart from the fact that people who send you tracked changes will never, ever check whether you’ve accepted those changes.  A tracked change is a Job Done and Forgotten About.
  8. Record some webinars.  Bring your own IT system in case the IT Department has forgotten to come to work that morning.  Try not to fall asleep while recording the webinars, even if they are long, because it is demoralising for the speakers.  Your job is to keep the speakers upbeat and jolly, by telling them how upbeat and jolly they sound. 
  9. Hold a planning meeting.  People may or may not come, and if they do, they may not come to the same place and at the same time as you do.  But it will make you feel better.
  10. Be strict about the dress code for your meetings.  Especially if there are barristers involved.  Barristers like to shock you into believing they are gods, but actually they are not gods they are just very articulate messengers of the gods.  And messengers of the gods are used to hiding their normal clothes under gowns.  Look at the angels.
  11. Find a venue with a terribly nice man in charge of it, so that it hardly matters that your meeting rooms are spread over three floors and there is only one plate of biscuits between them.
  12. Alert the Biscuit Pixies to a potential biscuit famine on floors one and two; ensure supplies arrive by 10 am.
  13. Hold a final planning meeting.  Hope that you are quorate.  Invite some people in off the street just in case.  If you are lucky, they may be able to write the last chapters of the course manual for you.
  14. Find someone to print your course manual in a nice glossy professional format.  Be aware, however, that printers and publishers use a different calendar to the rest of us, and also they do not like to work too quickly for fear of bending the space-time continuum.  If you need the printed manuals by Friday, tell them your absolute final deadline is Tuesday.
  15.  Hold an absolutely final planning meeting.  On your own.  Find somewhere comfortable.  Invite some alcoholic beverages.
  16. On the morning of the workshop day, get up early and stop whimpering.  Your job is to put pretty-coloured stickers on people’s name badges so that they know which group they’re in.  Do not make a mess of this vital task.
  17. You also need to talk to the terribly nice man and his colleagues about where you want the plate of biscuits to be.  Tell them: Don’t worry; I will carry it around with me.
  18. You may need to collect some of the delegates from their homes and escort them to the workshop venue, if they have forgotten to read the document that tells them where the course is being held.  (This is of course an immediate fail if you are doing real oral proceedings.)  Do not forget to tie their shoelaces for them and check that they have their packed lunch and PE kit.
  19. At the workshop, relax and enjoy yourself.  This is your Big Day.  It is your chance to swan around telling everyone you are the Course Leader but not actually doing anything useful.  If anything looks like going wrong, move quickly to another room to be busy and important. 
  20. When the workshop has finished, stay behind to gather up the unused course notes.  Eat all the leftover biscuits: this is your prerogative as Chief Tidying-Up Pixie.  Weep tears of relief and vow never to run the course again.
  21. Repeat.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Let me tell you a story...

5 February 2015 - a serious post

It feels like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?  We’re the Chartered Institute of “Patent Attorneys”.  Our members are patent attorneys.  We represent patent attorneys.  We understand them.  Chartered patent attorneys are the Best Thing Ever in the IP world and we have staked our reputation on that.

So why would we want to open CIPA’s arms to other IP practitioners?  Why dilute the valuable CPA brand?

The question arises because we are rewriting our Bye-laws.  We could go for a cosmetic touch-up, simply to modernise voting procedures and the rules about meetings.  But a new set of Bye-laws requires the approval of the membership, not to mention the Privy Council, so while we’re about it, should we not also take the opportunity to ask ourselves the bigger questions about categories of membership, about who we let in and who we allow to help shape the Institute’s future?  Especially at this time of expansion and change in the IP world – is it not time to look again at our Institute’s role?

Patent attorneys are notoriously wary of change.  I know there are many who abhor the suggestion that CIPA might dilute its core of chartered patent attorneys with other more lowly types of IP practitioner.  And maybe their instincts are right.

But I’m concerned.  I’m concerned that we’re not thinking strategically enough.  That, in typical patent attorney fashion, we’ve not looked at the big picture.  That we haven’t considered the potential consequences of remaining small and elite.

So I’d like to tell you a story.  Normally it’s Mr Davies who does the story-telling round here, but I hope he won’t mind my borrowing his approach just this once.


Once upon a time, some very clever people learned to make stained glass windows.  They were beautiful stained glass windows and they were exquisitely crafted.  People came from far and wide to see them, and paid many hundreds of pounds to buy them.

The stained glass window makers were justifiably proud of their skills.  Together, they founded a Chartered Institute of Stained Glass Window Makers.  Only the very best stained glass window makers could join this institute, and they had to pass rigorous tests to do so.  But their work was respected world-wide.  Their institute kept them safe, and spoke out for them, and at the same time it made sure that they maintained their enviable standards.

Over time, stained glass windows gained in popularity.  Everybody wanted one.  The Chartered Stained Glass Window Makers could hardly keep up with demand.  But they refused to let standards slip; their windows remained as exquisite as ever.

As the windows gained in popularity, interesting things began to happen.  Some other very clever people learned how to instal the stained glass windows in interesting new ways.  Others learned how to clean the stained glass windows, still others how to repair them.  Some became good at advising customers on the type of stained glass to include in their buildings, others at creating new colours and designs for the glass.  A whole new industry grew up.

Now, the people who designed and installed and cleaned and repaired and advised on the stained glass windows could not, for the most part, make them.  And the Chartered Stained Glass Window Makers, well, beautiful as their windows were, most of them weren’t able to instal or clean or repair.  The truth was, a customer who owned a stained glass window, or who wanted a new one, probably had to consult several different experts. 

The Chartered Institute of Stained Glass Window Makers saw its opportunity.  It cared about the stained glass window industry.  It cared about everything to do with stained glass windows.  So it changed its name to the Chartered Institute of Stained Glass Windows.  A tiny change, but significant.  Because then it could allow the stained glass window designers to become members, and the installers, and the cleaners and repairers and advisers.  Each of these groups had its own set of tests to pass.  All of them worked to exquisitely high standards.  They shared their expertise.  They learned from one another.

As the membership grew, the Chartered Institute became more wealthy and more influential.  If a customer needed anything to do with a stained glass window, he knew who to visit.  If a businessman or a politician or a journalist needed to know something about the stained glass window industry, he knew who to ask.  This was a vibrant, active and forward-thinking community, quick to grasp opportunities and respond to threats.  But it hung on to its core values; standards did not fall; its members were welcoming, but they were still proud.

The industry boomed.  There were stained glass windows everywhere.  And at the hub of this industry, the Chartered Institute also thrived, maintaining a reputation second to none; speaking out for the industry; helping it to develop.  Cowboys came and went, with their shoddy second-rate windows and their shoddy second-rate window designs, but customers knew they could rely on the Chartered Institute if they wanted a quality product.

Now let me tell you another story.

This story begins in the same way as the first, with the very clever people who learned to make stained glass windows.  It too sees the establishment of the Chartered Institute of Stained Glass Window Makers.  But in this story, when stained glass windows gained in popularity, the Chartered Institute took a different line.

In this story, the Chartered Stained Glass Window Makers guarded their skills jealously.  They sneered at the advisers and designers and installers, the cleaners and the repairers, who could not themselves make stained glass windows to save their lives.  Fearful of being undermined, the Chartered Stained Glass Window Makers issued a proclamation, explaining that only they could make the exquisite stained glass windows the world deserved.

The world didn’t understand.  Exquisite stained glass windows were no good on their own.  So the world called in the advisers and designers and installers, and it wasn’t long before the advisers and designers and installers were learning to make the stained glass windows themselves.  Some of them did quite a passable job, as it turned out.  Sadly, some of them did not – and the Chartered Stained Glass Window Makers weren’t about to help them learn.  The industry gained a reputation for being, well, unreliable to put it kindly.  The advisers and designers and installers tried to set up their own chartered institutes.  So did the cleaners and repairers.  But somehow, it didn’t quite work out. 

Stained glass windows became less popular.  The industry waned and the public lost confidence.  The Chartered Stained Glass Window Makers continued to make exquisitely beautiful stained glass windows, to impeccably high standards, but their customers were few and their influence small.  They sat at the fringes of the construction industry, quietly practising their craft and mumbling to one another about happier times.

There is a third story.  Of course there is.  It’s a mixture of the first and the second.  The stained glass window industry thrives but the Chartered Institute of Stained Glass Window Makers is not at the hub of it.  The Chartered Stained Glass Window Makers sit on the side-lines, respected but hardly influential: a small, elite group, highly skilled but a little out of touch.  Their customers are wealthy but there aren’t many of them.  People have realised that they don’t need a gold-standard stained glass window, and turned to cheaper alternatives which are still colourful, still pleasing on the eye, still good enough, despite their minor flaws.  Sometimes the master craftsmen complain at their lot.  They criticise the cheaper alternatives.  But they don’t get out much, so no-one hears.

Three stories.  Three very different outcomes.  Which one is CIPA’s? 


We’re IP attorneys.  We know that sharing, licensing, collaborating, can turn a patented invention into a platform technology.  And we know that if you want to play your patent for exclusivity, you’ve got to be very, very sure you’re ahead of the competition.

CIPA is well placed in the IP landscape at the moment.  Let’s think long and hard about how we want to play it from here.  And about the consequences for the UK’s IP professionals, our businesses, our livelihoods.  Are we niche artisans or bold entrepreneurs?  Please, let’s not be so proud of ourselves that we end up as the Betamax of the IP world.