Saturday, 25 February 2017

CIPA consultation on CPD

CIPA Education Committee have produced a document which is fulsomely described as a Framework for Professional Development. They want our comments on it by 10 March 2017 so do jump to it - they clearly need help. I had hoped it was going to propose the end of the CPD hours culture in favour of results, but no.

The idea seems to be that they need to know what a qualified patent agent needs to learn in order to develop and maintain his professional competence. This will guide the educational provision.

Once one has got over the "Teach Speak Jargon", we find that they believe we need to have skills, knowledge, values and behaviours. I accept that skills and knowledge can be learned taught and developed, but I am not too sure about the last two. Once upon a time lawyers studied ethics which generally dealt with the practicalities of not acting for both sides in an argument and managing the clients funds but such practical issues don't seem to be within the scope of this framework. Least said about "behaviours" the better.

Let me turn to what I do understand. There are lists of skills and lists of knowledge.

At the end of the list on knowledge we have:
2(g) a member should have a sound understanding of the law and practice as it relates to designs, trade marks, copyright, licensing, due diligence, contract and competition law to enable them to identify the implications of such laws and practice for clients and to enable them to refer clients for further professional advice and guidance as relevant and appropriate
Frankly this narrow focus on patent practice is disappointing. Now that CITMA has its charter are we dropping our interest in the core intellectual property fields of trademarks, designs and copyright? I think we need to put Mr Ferrara right.

The list of skills is extremely flowery. Some are the basic drafting skills that are a prerequisite for qualification. Other so-called skills are frankly patronising : do you want to be trained in how to "be able to adapt style and approach to meet the needs of clients".  One skill that seems to be particularly important is managing the expectations of clients who expect their unadapted applications to be examined any time soon by the EPO or UK IPO.

This list does not provide any suitable structure for developing educational offerings.

When seeking education, focusing on knowledge always helps. The core of the CIPA offering needs to be keeping up to date with developments in IP law in our home jurisdictions. The suggestion that the same level of emphasis needs to be placed on ALL overseas jurisdictions is odd. Its all too easy for CIPA to succumb to visiting overseas' professionals desire to give "marketing" updates in the name of education. Education in the laws and practices of the main trading partners of this country is what we need. We need to direct our eager marketing volunteers into discussing practical issues that are likely to be relevant to our local clients.

Item 2(f) : approaches to competitor IP is not knowledge -its a skill.

The values and behaviours are the province of IPREG and codes of conduct.

An educational framework needs to be more skeletal and be a tool that those organising programmes and events can work with. This framework does not seem likely to help.

We need courses and support on:
  • keeping up to date on IP law
  • improving  skills of drafting and advocacy for preempting and responding to office actions
  • developing litigation skills
  • listening and receiving feedback from users of IP on what they need
  • managing our own businesses - includes ethics
What do you think you need CIPA to provide for you?

Saturday, 18 February 2017

IP Entrepreneurs: the practical checklist

CITMA magazine in February 2017 published an article under this title with contributions from a panel of  trade mark attorneys who have started out independently. If this has inspired you, here is a more practical checklist (in no particular order). We have covered quite a few of these issues before so its always worth a read of the archives particularly Sally's Moving Series from 2015

Legal Structure

Sole trader or incorporate a company. A company keeps your business life separate from your personal life but if you are going to be regulated don't do anything clever with the shares or you may find yourselves a one man ABS. Creating a company is ridiculously easy but maintaining requires  a little more effort. It may be worthwhile using a company secretarial service who can help with . I use Goodwille.


The article emphasised the value of getting a good accountant you can work with long term. Bookeeping is vital from day one and it makes sense to decide whether you will outsource that - maybe to your compnay secretarial service - or do it yourself.  Software is readily available and it helps if your accountant can read your data. After many years using Sage I have converted to the Clearbooks online system that can cope with multicurrency accoutants and is very handy for my EU IPO and EPO deposit accounts.


Keeping business money separate from personal money is vital so you will need a bank account. Thats not as easy as it was. A bank with a good online banking interface is useful for avoiding excessive costs. I use Barclays. I've tried Lloyds which was quite helpful in providing a debit card which is useful for paying fees on websites. Business credit cards may not be that easy to get hold of on day one.


You do need some start up funding and not just to live on before you start paying your own salary. Starting softly as a tied consultant to a former employer can minimise the sums required. If you are using your own savings then recording your loans is vital so you can pay yourself back once bills get paid.


If you want to benefit from advertising yourself as Chartered you will need to deal with IPREG and that means creating your terms of trade consistently with their requirements and creating some policies and procedures.


Even without regulation some professional indemnity insurance is desirable. PAMIA is the goto service for most pure IP attorneys. Other insurers are available. Don't forget to put a limitation of liability into your terms of trade too.


You need somewhere to work especially if you intend to employ other people. A solo practitioner can work at home with a laptop at least to begin with.

Record Keeping

For a trademark or patent attorney having some way of maintaining records is important. I use Marco a system that Filemot licenses to others at very reasonable cost. its based on Microsoft Access. Today folk seem to want web based services like WebTMS and others are available. Please comment if you have your own recommendations.


This can be an issue. If you are coming out of employment, restrictive covenants will stop you workign for you old clients, but only for a period. Business networks, contacts of all sorts and advertising will find business. If you look at the number of "agents" names appearing in the UK Trademarks Journal that include the word "trademark" you will appreciate just how much business is driven today by GoogleAds. However these are expensive clients to procure, very price sensitive and seldom provide repeat business. Working all possible work referrers is the best method. Let your satisfied clients know that you would love it if they mentioned you to their contacts. If you dont ask for referrals you won't get them. Some say you need a website or use social media.


The whole object of workingis to generate income so you need to pay yourself and contribute to your pension (even if you dont want to -its the law). HMRC has a lot of helpful information and tools for new employers including free payroll software to calculate PAYE and NIC.