Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Being regal round Liverpool

13 February 2015

Today I am busy being regal around Liverpool.  I am not sure Liverpool is quite ready for this.  But still. 

I visit two firms of patent attorneys.  One is in a swanky new building that is Liverpool’s answer to The Shard.  The other is in a swanky historic building that is Liverpool’s answer to St Paul’s Cathedral.  The two buildings are directly opposite one another, which is Liverpool’s answer to not being as big as London.

I have visited CIPA members now in a diverse range of buildings, from the scruffy-but-cosy to the space-age-with-smoked-glass-coffee-tables.  I have visited a former county gaol and I have visited the Actual Shard.  I have been quizzed and vetted by all manner of security officials and struggled with all manner of pin-on visitor badges that are only designed to be pinned on men.  I have seen many different corporate colour schemes, and my posh suits have clashed with most of them.

But there is something that is the same wherever I go: when I ask CIPA members why they continue to pay their membership fees, they don’t know.  They think it is because they always have done.  They think there might be a rule about it somewhere.  Some of them would rather walk under a ladder on Friday 13th with a black cat in one arm and a dead magpie in the other than risk not paying their CIPA fees. 

Afterwards, I take a taxi back to the station.  Regal though I am attempting to look, the driver soon susses that I am from the Wess Curntry.  He therefore tells me the tale of his own visit to the Wess Curntry, which involved a stay at Butlins®, a flagon or two of scrumpy, a midnight streak across the holiday camp of which he claims to remember nothing, and eviction from the camp with his clothes and quite a bit of accompanying Wess Curntry agriculture in a laundry bag.  He tells this story in an accusing kind of tone, as though it were my fault that Wess Curntry scrumpy masquerades as apple juice until reaching your bloodstream, and then metabolises into absolute ethanol.

This is why I drink gin and whisky.  Gin and whisky are lightweights compared to scrumpy.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Dinner & drinks, in a Catnic kind of way

12 February 2015, 8 pm

We have made it to the post-seminar dinner.  The 5 hours of CPD, subtropical conditions and belligerence of the hotel staff have induced a spirit of camaraderie.  We push our three dinner tables together to make the evening more cosy.  The waiters complain that this will make their jobs almost totally impossible but by now we have ceased to worry about inconveniencing our service providers.  We tell them to deliver the drinks at one end and we will pass them round ourselves, thank you.  They huff and grumble but we are not to be moved.

We eat well.  We drink even better.  By the end Mr Davies can only stand up with external assistance.  Which is not forthcoming, since the rest of us are only just vertical anyway, in a Catnic kind of way.

Mr Davies falls over.

So, actually, we are still here at midnight after all.  Once again Liverpool pulls down its blinds, bars its doors and turns off its lights in the hope that Mr Davies and I will not come looking for soup.  I get the impression that the entire population of this city needs client care training.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Loads of CPD - and some tips on credit control

12 February 2015

Today is the Merseyside regional meeting.  I had not realised how much stamina they have in Liverpool.  The seminar lasts from 11.30 am until 5.30 pm, which is an awful lot of CPD in anyone’s book.  The hotel staff do their best to increase our suffering, firstly by turning up the heating to gas mark 3 and then by directing us here, there and everywhere in the refreshment breaks.  Those of us who go here when we should have gone there are firmly admonished.  It is clear that in Liverpool, the concept of the customer always being right – or indeed of the customer always being welcome – is unheard of.

I have brought my Cowtrackingclangingthingen (aka cow-bells) from Austria.  I use these to herd the delegates from here, there and everywhere into the only-just-subtropical meeting room, and also to tell the speakers when to shut up.  There are six speakers, and though they have most fascinating topics to speak on, I would really rather they didn’t exceed their allotted times or we will still be here at midnight.  In between Cowtrackingclangingsounden we hear about data protection laws (which apparently we are supposed to comply with, sigh); IP taxation (which apparently we are supposed to know about, sigh); and excluded subject matter (which apparently we should stop trying to protect because the IPO are getting frustrated).  Sigh.  We also hear the latest on the UPC, the latest from the courts, and a bit about criminal sanctions for IP pirate bandit criminals.

The most entertaining talk of the day is by a bailiff, who insists he is not a bailiff but a court enforcement officer.  His job is to get money off people who have shown little inclination to pay despite niceties such as invoices, solicitors’ letters, writs and County Court judgments.

He says there are basically two types of debtors: Can’t-pay and Won’t-pay.  Can’t-pay has six children in a one-bedroomed flat, boarded-up windows and very little furniture left after the last time the bailiffs I mean court enforcement officers visited.  Won’t-pay has electric gates and a Porsche®.  The speaker has photographs of these two types of debtors, and of how he managed to put wheel clamps on the Porsches despite everyone’s best efforts.  He says that his success often depends on the “twitcher” next door.  The twitcher is that most neighbourly of neighbourhood watchers, who keeps an eye on things through jumpy net curtains and is always happy to give away information if pressed sufficiently firmly for instance with a cup of tea.  The twitcher will tell you where the Porsche is hidden, and whether the owner is really out or only pretending to be, not to mention who he is sleeping with and how often his wife gets a delivery from Oddbins®.

In my experience, there are several other shades of debtor too:

  • Never intended to pay
  • Can only pay in turnips
  • Thinks you were joking.

Never-intended-to-pay gives a contact address that turns out to be a public convenience.  This makes the “know your client” procedures distinctly unpleasant.  Can-only-pay-in-turnips is protected by a moat of mud and cow pats, a raging bull, six hungry sheep dogs and eleven very feral farm cats.  And a tractor with man-mincing jaws. 

Thinks-you-were-joking shows up with a fiver and expresses dissatisfaction about your use of decimal points.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Soup, man flu & an evening in Liverpool

11 February 2015, 10.30 am

I am back at CIPA after my Soup Holiday.  At last I can be reunited with my secret friend the ceiling-mounted espionage system.  It gives me a look that I know means it has been missing me.  I think I am in love.

At a meeting of the Congress Steering Committee, I make some suggestions for panel discussions.  To which people say, no, don’t be silly; that would be boring and repetitive.  And I think, oh, perhaps I have been missing the point of Congress all along?

I leave the meeting in a huff and go to lunch with the folk who helped me with the EPO oral proceedings course.  It is a lunch to say thank you.  I give them autographed copies of my Not-so-secret Diary and a free glass of wine each.  And then I tell them about the work they will have to do for this year’s courses.

The food is very good but I can only eat the soupy bits.  Which means, essentially, the pudding and the wine.  It could be worse I suppose. 


11 February 2015, 2 pm

We hold one of our regular meetings with ITMA.  I have been led to believe that in the past, the two Institutes did not get on particularly well.  I also gather, however, that this was at a time when CIPA did not get on particularly well with anyone.  Things have changed since then.  CIPA realised that if you go round picking fights with people they stop inviting you to their parties, and since ITMA is renowned for its parties, it made sense to be friends again.

In the absence of the President, it is my job to chair this meeting.  I read out each of the agenda items in turn and ask the others what we are supposed to be doing about it.  Thankfully, the others are able to tell me, and so we progress rapidly through the agenda without any further action being required by me.

I am relieved the meeting progresses quickly, because Mr Davies has such bad man flu that he almost dies twice.  Also we have a train to catch to Liverpool. 


11 February 2015, 4 pm

On the Liverpool train, I have to sit next to Mr Davies and his man flu.  In between bouts of terminal dying, he tells me the background to yesterday’s ABS webcast.  Apparently it may have looked most professional from Zummerzet, but in reality it was mainly held together with gaffer tape and string.  By which I mean that Unlucky Gary and his CIPA colleagues spent the day buying cheap coffee tables and table cloths for the set; assembling the cheap coffee tables and ironing the cheap table cloths; and cutting up bits of wire and their connectors in order to make the electrons from the microphones communicate properly with the electrons from the internet.  Apparently electrons can be quite fussy about the types of connectors they’re prepared to go down. 

The final straw, I am told, was the giant gold heraldic CIPA crest.  Impressive as this Plaster of Paris monstrosity must have looked in its day, gracing the front of CIPA Hall, it now gets in the way of the screen, thereby casting an anatomically-evocative and most undignified shadow onto the freshly ironed table cloths that Unlucky Gary was so proud of.  The heraldic monstrosity I mean crest had to be removed for the afternoon, creating a heraldically monstrous storage problem in the back room.  Unfortunate. 


11 February 2015, 7 pm

Liverpool.  We while away an hour or so not finding somewhere to eat.  Our lack of success is only partly due to my inability to swallow anything that isn’t soup. 

For a start, our hotel restaurant is in darkness.  This is not a good sign.  The staff direct us to the bar instead, but the bar is only just not in darkness, and in any case its menu is limited to burgers and macho meaty things.  An Italian restaurant across the way looks promising to start with, but it soon becomes apparent that all we are allowed to do there is sit at a table and look at a menu.  Forgive me, but that is not a restaurant; that is a LIBRARY. 

We leave the library and head for what we think is a Mexican eatery.  It is not.  It serves burgers and macho meaty things.  Finally we end up in a tapas bar, where the lights are so low and the menus so Spanish that we could be eating anything, but at least we get offered a drink and at least some of the dingy Spanish things are soupy enough for me to eat.  In fact, they are really rather nice.  At this point I begin to quite like Liverpool, although quite liking somewhere because of its dingy and unpronounceable soupiness is not a massive compliment I concede.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The need-to-know webinar

10 February 2015

I tune in to the CIPA and ITMA webcast about ABSs.  It all looks most professional.  Of course, we do not have very fast broadband in Zummerzet, and so every now and then the image on my screen freezes, which is unnerving because I keep thinking the speaker has died and wondering if I should email someone at CIPA to tell them.

The webcast was supposed to take us through the application forms for getting your ABS licensed.  However it turns out the application forms are Top Secret and only released on a need-to-know basis, and you only need-to-know if you are already in deep trouble for being an ABS and not having applied for a licence.  If you are only considering being in deep trouble you are not allowed to look at the forms.  And if you are trying to help people who are in deep trouble or who are considering being in deep trouble, you are not allowed to look at the forms because you might show them to someone who isn’t in deep trouble and doesn’t need-to-know and you cannot have people wandering around knowing things they don’t need to know.

I wonder how it would be if the IPO only allowed you to look at a Form 9 once you had accidentally filed a search request without one.  Frustrating, I imagine.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Real, actual straw houses

9 February 2015

The television news tells me that in Bristol, they are starting to build houses out of straw.  Real, actual houses.  Out of real, actual straw.  All this time I have been emptying straw out of my pockets, and the CIPA Pixies have been sweeping it away after me, and really actually we could have been making our fortunes by selling it to the construction industry.  Or indeed by selling me to the construction industry.

I remain unconvinced about a house made out of the bits that fall off the back of a combine harvester, but I am told that straw houses are comfortable and warm and really actually quite robust.  In a farmyard kind of way.  The camera zooms in on a “feature window” which allows the people inside the straw hut a unique opportunity to watch their insect and rodent cohabitants.  That’s cosy alright.

The BBC call in a straw house expert, who is the closest I have seen to a real actual straw man.  He has clearly not had any media training recently but he has a plucky attempt at selling the idea of a mortgaged hamster cage.  “Do you think these houses will take off?” asks the BBC journalist.  LOL.  Presumably only if the Big Bad Wolf comes huffing and puffing around.  And in Brizzle this is not a risk because although we have wild boar wandering our streets and wurzels in our pubs, we do not yet have wolves.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Ideas for soup

8 February 2015

I have become an expert on Making Soup.  Over the last, essentially toothless, seven days I have had a go at turning pretty much everything into soup. 

I am a veritable Soup Dragon, in fact.

Some of these initiatives worked better than others.  For example, the following were very successful:

  • Grapefruit soup (not dissimilar to grapefruit juice: come to think of it, I could have saved myself the effort with the spinning-blade thingy).
  • Muesli soup (not dissimilar to porridge: ditto).
  • Carrot and dry roasted peanut soup (like carrot soup, only tasty).
  • Double gin and tonic soup.

The following were, I concede, slightly less successful:

  • Brie and crusty baguette sandwich soup.
  • Smoky bacon crisp soup.
  • Side-salad soup.
  • Chocolate biscuit soup.
  • Fish and chips soup.

Still, I pride myself on being open-minded, and from the inside of my head pretty much everything’s worth a try.  This is of course what scares people on Council: they worry that if I am not kept in check this year, I will attempt the Presidential equivalent of a Cornish pasty soup at CIPA.  Think of the mess that would make.

Sunday, 8 March 2015


4 February 2015

I attend today’s meetings by phone, on account of still having to eat everything through a straw and my face being swollen up like a replete hamster’s. 

The Council meeting is a grumpy one.  It is also a long one.  And the longer it goes on, the grumpier it gets.  I put my phone on mute so as not to subject my colleagues to the sound of me slurping my soup through a straw.  It doesn’t help my mood that during the meeting I manage to consume two bowls’ worth of soup and I still feel hungry.

In fact, my optimism-that-knows-no-bounds has all of a sudden found bounds in abundance.

At the end of all the grumpiness it is declared that we have reached one or two consensi (this being the plural of consensus, obviously).  I was not aware we had reached any consensi.  But sometimes if people talk loudly enough and longly enough the other people stop joining in and I guess at that point we might be deemed to have sort-of consensually reached an endpoint.

One of the better consensi is that the new Education & Professional Standards Committee is good to go, although Council is a little uncomfortable with the idea of it having a “vision” so has insisted that the “vision” be provisional, just to be on the safe side.  How a vision could be anything other than provisional I’m not entirely sure, it being one of the least tangible of all the intangible assets we work with and not even registrable at that.  However, I guess our concerns are due to having been trained to keep our main claims broad until such time as the client has decided what it is he’s invented this week.

Another good consensus results in our almost having a couple of CIPA Policy Papers.  We have waited years to have Policy Papers of our own – normally we have to crib from someone else’s by reading over their shoulder – and now suddenly we have two of them at once.  Someone makes a comment linking this to the arrival of buses, but believe me in Zummerzet you never ever get two buses arriving at once.  You are lucky to get half a bus clamped to the front end of a tractor.  And even luckier if it is pointing in the right direction.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

All about dental implants

2 February 2015

I take a break from the CIPA work to have some dental implants forced into my mouth.

There are two types of implant: screw-fitting and bayonet-fitting.  Or at least, that’s what it looked like to me, from the pretty cross-sections which the very expensive dentist showed me.  The very expensive dentist thinks I am thick (in my defence, it is not easy to be intelligent when your mouth is clamped open and someone has a power tool inside it), so he has explained the cross-sections to me in great detail.  This pink area with the tooth sticking out of it, he says: this is the gum.  You don’t say.  He says: it is like we have sliced through your jawbone to look at the tooth and gum.  Gosh that’s clever, I say, only it comes out as goshawarrumph.

Then he explains how the toothy bit screws onto the screwy bit, and apologises if this is a bit complicated.  I say: it is not as complicated as my son’s Airfix® instructions.  It comes out as ashashoppyate-umphwheffelshuns.

Anyway, today it feels like he actually has sliced through my jawbone, so maybe I misunderstood the cross-sections after all.  He subjects me to three hours’ worth of very expensive torture.  With thirty minutes to go, he asks a very expensive stock control technician for an implant of a specific size and shape.  I hear the very expensive stock control technician rummaging in a toolbox.  Then I hear him say he doesn’t think they have any.  I have a strong urge to bite down on the very expensive hand in my mouth.  Having the correct type of implant is, I feel, something he should have checked for before he started.  Or am I being picky?

Nothing more is said for a while.  I suspect they made do with a 15 mm rawlplug instead.  I have no desire to check.

Once home, I return to my PC and stare at my inbox, dribbling miserably into a bowl of soup which is all I am going to be able to eat from now on ever until I die.  And for once, I cannot bring myself to write any emails back.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The things I do for CIPA

29 January 2015

I take a train to Hayes-&-Somewhere-or-Other to meet some in-house attorneys.  After the train I have to have a lift in Mr Davies’s car, which is so posh it has a dead sheep in the footwell.

The in-house attorneys tell us that they imagine CIPA being full of crusty relics who have got old and senior enough to be able to swan off to Council meetings while their minions pick up the crumbs of the work they’ve left behind.  I tell them this is not true at all, not now anyway, not since we stopped serving brandy and cigars after Apologies for Absence and replaced them with the offerings of the Biscuit Pixies, which are crumbly but not crusty.

They tell us that CIPA should engage more with its members.  I think: I have taken a train all the way here to Hayes-&-Wherever-it-is, eaten with them in their office canteen, shared a footwell with a dead sheep and listened to Mr Davies ranting on about education all the way from the station to the place where we got lost in their labyrinthine business park.  I have put on a posh jacket specially, and brushed off the straw, even though the posh jacket was scant protection against the wilds of Reading Station, which has recently been rebuilt as a massive wind tunnel with a deep-freeze facility for a concourse.  I have talked to them about SILC and I am even prepared to autograph copies of my Secret Diary if they have their CIPA Journal to hand.  What more, I think, do they want me to do to “engage” with them??

Later, I receive an offer from the CIPA Membership Team to sauce up my Presidential manifesto for me.  That sounds an excellent idea.  Brown sauce, red sauce, outsauce, we definitely need more sauce at CIPA.  Everything at CIPA should be served with extra sauce, I think.  A CIPA Journal with extra sauce.  CIPA newsletters with extra sauce.  Then we will be the sauciest of all saucy Institutes.  And that might help us engage with our members.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Good intentions

28 January 2015

I am delighted to learn, from a public source, that my Not-so-Secret Diary is improving.  This is in no small part thanks to my tireless critics, who have shown me the rubbishness of my ways and tutored me patiently in the art of how to write something so innocuous that not even a patent attorney could take offence at it.  I salute them.

My confidence thus boosted, I write a Statement of Intent to show that CIPA really does care about diversity and really will do something about it.  Although this will not cure everybody's problems all at once, it should at least make the IP professions look more attractive to those peering in from the outside, particularly the ragamuffins.  Otherwise I have this mental picture of the EyePeePee as a young ragamuffin, all grazed knees and grimy fingernails, pressing his sooty nose against the CIPA windows and gazing longingly at the world within – a world of elegant banquets and fine claret and cigars, and shiny tie pins and of course particularly red walls, knowing he will never feel at home there with his 1s 2d savings and his pocketful of dripping sandwich, and wiping his nose on his sleeve with disappointment.  Dear reader, if that image does not fill you with sadness and compassion then my Diary is even rubbisher than I thought.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Fancy new educational visions

27 January 2015, 2.30 pm

My second meeting today is to kick-start the Education & Professional Standards Committee with its fancy new terms of reference.  The Chairman has done some slides, which we are delighted to display using the fancy new ceiling-mounted projector in CIPA Hall. 

(The ceiling-mounted projector is of course also a ceiling-mounted espionage system, through which CIPA staff can monitor Council meetings and submit their observations to the Institute of Psychology.  I can tell because it has a swivelling head which keeps looking at me and blinking.  It has a lovely smile, though; I think it is possibly in love with me.)

The slides contain strange words like “Vision” and “Structure” and “Operational”.  I think I might have to go and lie down too.  What with manifestos and action plans and strategies, it is beginning to feel like I’ve accidentally walked into the wrong institute.