Saturday, 22 November 2014
A Big Bang (in the House of Commons)
3 November 2014
I make it through Security into the House of Commons, despite having a rucksack full of straw and attempting to send a text a little too close to the x-ray machines. This area is usually a Shoot-on-Sight zone, but I am saved by the rucksack: straw is flammable, and a rucksack full of it is not something you want to take a pot-shot at.
On the Commons terrace, there is a posh tent to keep the rain out. I have never seen a tent with chandeliers before: I guess this is what they mean by “glamping”. Outside the posh tent, a sheet of builders’ polythene separates the Commoners from the Lords, which I am told is also a Shoot-on-Sight zone for people with rucksacks. I am not prepared to push my luck twice.
Still, it is reassuring to know that in a democracy, even the most powerful people have to make do with polythene sheeting when the builders disappear for three weeks to collect whatever equipment they accidentally on purpose forgot that builders need.
The event going on inside the posh tent is called “Big Bang”. Which is a little tactless, really, considering its spatial and temporal proximity to bonfire night. The event is full of bright-eyed youngsters who have been working on engineering projects and are all fired up (excuse the pun) about science and Powerpoint® presentations. I talk to them in my best I-am-a-grown-up-but-not-patronising voice. Unfortunately it comes across as I-am-a-grown-up-but-thick. So they explain in noddy terms how their inventions work and why they are so excited. And most of them do a better pitch than your average grown-up anyway; they are not at all intimidated by my posh suit and the straw coming out of me at the corners.
Eventually I get fed-up with not being found intimidating. I go in for the kill. “Have you applied to patent this?” I ask one particularly impressive youngster whose amazing and expertly-pitched invention is depicted in sketches on the panel behind him. He says not yet, but patenting is definitely something he and his team are considering.
Right. Better get a move on then, because I think you will find that you need to have been definitely considering this yesterday.
I can tell the impressive youngster thinks I am a miserable old cow and that he has no intention of heeding my advice. And to be fair, I do think that if anyone is capable of having done something yesterday, it could well be him.
So then, in the interests of Awareness-Raising, I introduce myself to various people with whom CIPA could – in my naïve view of the world – collaborate to ensure that bright young engineers know about patents. Unfortunately I have not done enough training in basic networking skills, and my introductions fail to impress. In contrast, the lucky people into whose circles of vision I thrust myself and my straw-shedding rucksack have done enough training in basic networking skills. They employ the time-honoured technique for dealing with bothersome nutcases: they smile politely, give me their cards and tell me to push off. Not in so many words, obviously. But on these cards, by way of contact details, it says Here is a direct link to my spam folder.
Well they are not going to get rid of me that easily.