The impetus was the need to modernise the admission regulations which, due to the demise of the OGM, were slowing up the admission of new members. However the opportunity was also taken to review the types of members we admit.
The 25 page report of the Bye-Laws working group can be downloaded here .
Membership StructureThe core of CIPA is practising patent agents and at present you can become a FELLOW as soon as you qualify. This means there is no progression or recognition of seniority within the profession after that. Even so the working group is not considering adding another illustrious lawyer for rich senior partners - an opportunity lost. ITMA is smarter than that.
To be a body of influence, it seems to me we need a wide and large membership. Clearly CIPA has most to offer to those who want to practise as pure patent agents but other Intellectual Property Rights and Patent Litigation are very important too. At the moment Barristers and other Litigators are excluded from the Fellowship and this is a loss to CIPA's influence. If our industrial members want clout on issues such as the Unified Patent Court we need to recognise the central function of those who do litigate. We cannot suggest they join as "Affiliates". Its clearly not very attractive as only 35 have apparently done so. If you are a QC at the patent bar you should be a Senior Fellow. If you are a patent solicitor working on High Court litigation Fellowship is the minimum respectable rank.
Creating a more inclusive structure will also make a more attractive career path and a broader pool to make effective policy considerations. At present CIPA is stuck in securing patent rights and its scope stops there. It needs to recognise that its members work in the wider world where those patent portfolios influence share prices, business success and failure, disputes, licensing and much more. There is only so far Ministers are likely to listen to people who only seem fit to fill in forms.
There should also be Trade Mark Fellows and please can we get rid of the divisive Overseas members. If you are an EPA resident anywhere you can surely join as an EPA member (and why not a Fellow) and if you are a US patent lawyer then are you really so different from a UK one. Can we make it even simpler.
TitlesThere is a proposal that the 288 members who are on both registers could call themselves Chartered Patent and Trade Mark Attorney. I am saddened that I am one of so few. Surely many more folk within patent firms practise trademarks. It seems that very few can now manage the labour/cost of both Trademark exams and Patent exams. Again we are narrowing our specialism so that influence can be ignored. We need to facilitate not limit the acquisition of a broad range of skills by our members and give them the opportunity to move between practises that provide a range of services.
The title PATENT AGENT is about being on the register and therefore now outside the gift of CIPA. Lets not worry about titles nobody uses them but we do say in our CVs what exams we have passed, what qualifications we enjoy and what influential professional bodies we are proud to belong to.
CommitteesAn interesting proposal is the empowerment of committees to act without the approval of Council in respect of delegated powers. A lot of policy is decided by committees so we might be losing control here. However getting fast responses to consultations does requiresome delegation. The Council members on Committees might need to be more accountable to Council and everyone should be more accountable to the membership.
ElectionsNot much changes here. Is this an opportunity lost. Elections need to be a bit more inclusive. Maybe we should have constituencies to be represented. At present the influence of the Council is being suborned to big business who use the patent system for one purpose. Council needs to represent a cross section of membership and we need to have SOLO members and not too many retired ones, as well as EPA ones . Therefore I foresee a need to amend 11.1 so that it is not just Fellows who can be on Council.
Do attend the webinar and ask questions. We need your Influence.