Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Patents on Life - A Legal or a Moral Issue? Lets Discuss

In Cambridge on 4-5 September 2015 one of my solo friends, Dr Roman Cholij of St Edmund's College  has been instrumental in organising a conference on PATENTS ON LIFE.  Download the flyer here .  The conference is hosted by the Von Hugel Institute but it takes place at New Hall (of which both Sally Cooper and I are alumni and some popel call Murray Edwards College) and is jointly sponsored by the US The Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy. 
Its not expensive and you even get CPD points. Booking information here

Many intellectual property lawyers prefer to set aside any moral and ethical concerns about the subject matter of the inventions or even the trade marks that pass across their desks. For each of us, though, there may be a point where we draw a line. Though it might sometimes be difficult to do without being accused of intolerance so even declining an instruction can be fraught with problems.

We all know about patent eligibility rules. The UK IPO  and EPO have the task of implementing them. The EPO opposition procedure means they have to address the concerns of the public in this area and they do try to explain the inexplicable policy foundation. The UK IPO current policy on inventions involving human embryonic stem cells updated on 25 March 2015 can be found here.

We all know that patents are supposed to encourage innovation. Does it follow that by refusing to patent certain living things, innovation will stop? Can those who administer justice take a neutral stance.

As patent professionals we need to share our knowledge. We need to know if we are contributing or assisting activity that will lead to the decline of society or help it to grow and flourish. With new technology it is often unclear whether it will assist the angels or not. How should we conduct ourselves and what is the guidance we should be looking to provide our policy makers. This event is an excellent forum to debate these matters.

It does have a strong Catholic element but that is because the Catholic Chuch is concerned to discern the right moral path. I hope I will meet people of all faiths and none. There are few hard lines in this area which is why we need to discuss in the manner that Universities were created for. I hope some of you will come along and participate with me.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

European Case Law Review 2014

Guy Heath
One of the most valuable sessions in San Diego was the European case law review, a swift canter through the key cases of 2014. Clearly a huge amount of work had gone into the final selection so it was dissapointing not to have any handouts for further perusal on the plane home. This year the INTA app promised handouts and a discussion capability, but it delivered a sparse selection of speaker bios instead. Nevertheless INTA has published in its Reporter a valuable digest which you can download here. I reccommend you do so as its beautifully organised by topic and provides national cases as well. No trademark agent should be without it.  Thanks Guy. We would love to have the slides too.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

INTA Badging Fiasco

Yesterday I received my joining instructions for the INTA Annual Meeting in San Diego. INTA is an
organisation for brand owners but the majority of its profits come from the lawyers who attend the annual meeting. These people are presumed not trustworthy and are liable to try and swap badges or gain entry to the exhibition without paying. Awful people obviously. I seem to be one of them.

This year there are no guest tickets. On registration we were invited to pay additional sums $100 for our guests to attend events like the Welcome Reception. Yesterday I was informed that there would be no separate ticket for my guest so presumably he will need to be by my side at all times to ensure he is not ejected by the fearsome security. The $100 price is stated to cover ">Opening Ceremonies and Welcome Reception Guest Ticket — Opening Reception Ticket" but it omits the Keynote Address. This is going to be interesting. I am making this post so that those of us who have genuine guests (spouses) can enjoy both keynote address and meet up to enjoy the reception.
 
I hope nobody booked an excursion for an unaccompanied guest, as there will have to be a fight over who gets the badge.

Exhibitors will not enjoy any footfall (or even a bit of help with setting up or taking down their stands) from guests this year either.


I remember fondly the years that badges were sent out in the post. Even with a 9am opening on Saturday I bet there will be a queue. I had not planned to be in San Diego on Saturday as I had not realised there would programming that day so that is one queue I won't join.  If you are staying in the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina you are forbidden from meeting anyone without a badge. Hotel staff have presumably been instructed accordingly.

Free-riding is a bad thing but I do like a little trust. As a solo practitioner with no colleagues, having a guest with me helps a lot, buy hey ho, he will just have to hit the shops or the game. Maybe we should form a group of lonely would-be guests.

Still we attend the meeting for the educational events. The final programme is now on line and available on the App if you can remember your password. 245 Associate Solo Practitioners and me and my co-Blogger Jeremy @IPkat will be there, so lets hope the ticket barriers don't prevent us meeting up.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Moving Series Episode 5: Back To Naming Basics

Out in the wilds of Cumbria, we find Sally bemused that new businesses there are missing some of the most basic steps. Could be that its simpler and cheaper to make a few mistakes and Up North they are often less flash with the cash. Nevertheless Sally has a few FREE tips to avoid some of the more obvious mistakes when setting up a new business.

Here is what Sally has to say:

I hazard a guess that any professional move is going to involve “carrying on with what you do – but not necessarily in the way you did it before”.

Until the end of 2014, my office was often the only result on a search of the (old) website of ITMA for Trade Mark Attorneys in “Cheshire”. Now it’s the only office that appears on a search of the (new) website of ITMA for Trade Mark Attorneys in “Cum
Some Pitfalls a Trademark Attorney can't help with
bria”.

So there’s lots of experience (going back over some 24 years) of explaining both the services a Trade Mark Attorney is qualified to offer and how an Attorney can “add value”.

And (of course) this includes experience of trying to explain to any new business the relevance of checking (and double-checking) whether using a particular name might attract unwelcome attention.

Back in February 2015, Sean Gilday posted “Tell Me Your Invention!” so that he might direct

potential clients to this blog to put their minds at ease on the issue of a Patent Attorney’s (statutory and other) obligations of confidentiality.

Moving an office to a new location brings a new set of challenges and – whilst it’s not the way I would have done if before – I’m posting “Back To Basics” to follow in Sean’s footsteps.

Appearing below are draft paragraphs that see the light of day from time to time when any local business-to-business publication asks for “copy”. I’m posting here primarily so that I might direct any new business to this blog :
You may has registered a company and you (or your company) may own a Domain Name – but using a particular name might nonetheless attract unwelcome attention!
[ Draft paragraphs ]

1) Check at Companies House 

Whether or not you want to incorporate a company at the very beginning of trading, it’s a good idea to visit the website of Companies House . It was at www.companieshouse.gov.uk  but is now part of the portal at .gov.uk.

The “Company Information” section includes a search facility where you can type in the name you want to use and see whether others might be using this name in your line of business.

It’s a mistake to think that once you get your name onto the Register of Companies that’s all you have to do to be sure the name is yours. The website of Companies House includes warnings to this effect.

2) Check with Registrars of Domain Names 

 You’re likely to be running searches on the Internet to see whether another business already has the name you want as part of its Domain Name. All Domain Name Registries are obliged to provide WHOIS information. If you want to know more about a name in the .co.uk space (for example), then visit the website of Nominet at www.nominet.org.uk.  Another useful resource is http://whois.domaintools.com/

Please don’t be one of those people which thinks “I can have [name I want].co.uk – and that is all I have to do to be sure the name is mine”. A registrar site such as Europe Registry at www.europeregistry.com is useful for checking where someone may have claimed [name I want].co.uk outside of the .uk space. However when using a registry site to do searches be prepared to register as searched domains can be taken by those who monitor searches. If you feel domains are going to be central to your brand strategy talk to a trustworthy specialist registrar like Com Laude.

3) Be aware of the trade marks of others 

 Whilst you’re looking at the information that comes to you through searches on the Internet, take care to note any TM or ® symbols. And don’t ignore the “legal” information that’s often at the bottom of a web page: this often gives information about use of the TM and ® symbols.

TM simply means “trade mark”. As a trade mark is (obviously) any mark used in the course of trade, TM serves the purpose of warning that a business claims rights in (say) a name of logo. But use of TM doesn’t provide information on the strength (or weakness) of those rights. In fact, you might want to think of using TM .even if you haven't applied to protect it yet.

The ® symbol also serves the purpose of warning that a business claims rights in (say) a name or logo – but this time it’s “registered trade mark rights” and anyone that’s using a marks that’s the same-or-similar for same-or-similar goods or services risks allegations of infringement of “registered trade mark rights” under (in the UK) the Trade Marks Act 1994. If legal proceedings are taken, they can lead not only to a legal order (an injunction) to stop you using [name I want], but also orders for payment of sums of money (damages of an account of profits) to the owner of prior rights in [name I want].

4) The value of Trade Mark searches

If you want to avoid  for trade mark risk, the best way is to have a professional full availability search carried out against [name I want]. If you prefer not to use a trade mark attorney then the best resource available to you is TMView which will help you cover some of the similar names as well as those that are an exact match. If the UK market is all that interests you, then the UK Trade Mark Registry has a search tool for that here.

If you have been using [name I want] for some time without problems arising, you can file a trade mark application and the UK IPO will give you search results as part of the application process. Unfortunately they can miss some big risks and you may still find yourself faced with an opposition. Sometimes a larger brand may not be too concerned about a local lifestyle business but once that business puts its name on the register, it may be a completely different scenario.

The Duck says It really is worthwhile talking to your friendly local trade mark agent (especially if you are in Cumbria)

No client, no pay ..

The following media release from YouGov ("an international, full-service market research agency which is considered the pioneer of market research through online methods") brings some depressing news for solo/small IP practices in general.  More than one third of the consuming population in the UK are never likely to use a lawyer in their entire lifetimes -- and, if they do, it is likely to be for mundane activities like making a will, buying or renting a home or seeking compensation after having an accident.  What's more, most people who seek legal advice expect to get it for nothing.
Usage of legal services remains unchanged 
New research from YouGov Reports shows that a majority of consumers have used a solicitor or law firm in their lifetime. 
The Legal Services 2015 report finds that most adults (62%) have used a law firm or solicitor at some point in their lifetime; this remains the same as the previous report in December 2013. Adults who fall in the ABC1 social grade are more likely to have used a solicitor (70%) compared to adults in the C2DE grade (53%). 
Additionally, the report shows that usage of legal services increases with age. 85% of the over 55’s have used them compared with 12% of young adults aged 16-24. 
The research found that conveyancing and making a will and probate are the main areas of legal advice among adults who have used a law firm or solicitor in the last three years. 34% of consumers who have used a solicitor in the last three years, used them for will writing and probate services; this is followed by those who used a law firm for legal advice relating to residential conveyancing (24%). The third most popular area for legal advice is personal injury/accidents/medical negligence matters (11%). 
Cost of services is now considered the most important factor when searching for a legal representative. Three quarters of consumers (75%) reported cost as an influence when choosing a legal representative, up by 6 percentage points on the December 2013 survey. Cost has now surpassed experience and reputation of legal advisors as a factor, which is now the second most important factor (74%). 
The idea of solicitors charging for legal consultation the minute a consumer walks through the door is not popular among adults who have used a solicitor/law firm in the last three years. A majority of adults (57%) expected to receive free advice or information about their legal issues; only 7% did not receive this. 
Meanwhile, 29% of the adults who did not expect to receive any free legal consultation from their solicitors (43%) did not receive any. In total, 64% of adults report to have received free legal advice in the last three years – up by 6 percentage points on the December 2013 survey.  
In the last 18 months, one in ten adults (10%) contemplated paying for some legal advice but changed their mind. The main reasons for deciding against the idea was because they could not afford it (4%), it seemed complicated (3%), and they did not want to pay for further advice after initially receiving some free legal advice (3%). 
James McCoy, Research Director of YouGov Reports, commented on the findings: “Costs of services and fee charges now play a much bigger role for most adults using legal services. 
“There has also been an increase in the proportion of consumers who now receive free legal advice – whether expected or not - suggesting that legal representatives are becoming more open to the idea of providing free consultation.”
So the bottom line seems to be that most people -- even among those who need legal services -- are unlikely to come to you for patent, trade mark, design or copyright advice.  If perchance they do, they are likely to be more interested in your charges than your experience. When they ask for your advice they probably don't expect to pay for it and, even if they do contemplate payment, there's a good chance that they'll change their minds. But don't we know this already ...?

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Amending your Business Structure

Many patent and trade mark agents in the UK were taken by surprise in the New Year to discover that they were ABS because someone other than a regulated person had an ownership interest. I understand that if you unwind this IPREG won't be pursuing you for illegal trading so there is likely time for agents to buy back the shares from their spouses or retire incoporated partners.
For the gospel on this do call the IPREG to make sure you have done it right.

Monday, 30 March 2015

If you can't be an author, librarian or academic ...

Delia Venables' and Nick Holmes's Internet Newsletter for Lawyers ("Making the most of the Legal Web") has long been one of this blogger's favourite reads. It serves two somewhat contradictory functions. One is to fill in his gaps with regard to how lawyers are coping with the world they can reach through their computers; the other is to reassure him that the people who write for it sometimes know even less than he does.

Anyway, the current issue carries a short piece by Delia Venables entitled "Author, librarian, academic, lawyer" which states, in relevant part, that
the most desired jobs in Britain are not what you might expect; they are not even the most reliably well paid ones. Instead of actors and musicians, it seems that an aura of prestige still surrounds the quiet, intellectual life enjoyed by authors (60 per cent of respondents would like to be one), librarians (54 per cent), academics (51 per cent) and lawyers (43 per cent). In most cases, men and women have similar views, although (surprise, surprise) men are far more likely to want to be train drivers, Formula 1 drivers, astronauts and MPs, while women are more likely to want to be interior designers and librarians. ..
These figures come from YouGov research, which also indicates that only 7% of respondents wanted to be call centre workers.

It would be lovely to know how many of the 43% wannabe lawyers imagine themselves as working for large, prestigious partnerships, surrounded by efficient PAs and paralegals and how many yearn for the independence and the freedom of working as a sole practitioner -- or the loneliness of being the only IP professional in an office environment which is inhabited almost entirely by people who work in other fields of expertise.  We should be told!