Saturday, 31 January 2015

In or out?

12 January 2015

I attend a meeting of the Constitutional Committee, at which we are to begin working on the new Bye-Laws.  It is a long meeting.

The first issue, which takes about two hours, is deciding who should be allowed to join CIPA.  Only then can we divide up our members into those who matter a lot, those who matter less and those who we’d no idea existed.  We know that patent attorneys should be IN and window cleaners should be OUT (unless they are dual-qualified, of course).  But it is the whole load of other folk in between that we are not sure about. 

The Charter implies that CIPA can take on anyone who is an IP practitioner.  But what if not all IP practitioners are decent and dependable?  What if some of them split infinitives, or don’t know what nem con means?  Worst of all: what if Mr Davies wants to become a member??  Even if we let these reprobates into CIPA, say some of the Committee members, surely we are not going to let them vote or stand for Council?  How would they know what’s good for patent attorneys?

Well I’m not sure I do either.  But I’ve no doubt I’ll be told if I ask.  So I keep my mouth shut, because I actually want to get home before midnight.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Regional meetings and plots

8 January 2015

Today I am trying to plan some regional meetings, to keep the out-in-the-sticks CIPA members happy.  We are going to be radical and not hold the meetings on Fridays, because if you make people talk to other patent attorneys on Fridays they feel like the weekend has not begun at all.  Better to make them talk to other patent attorneys on a day when they are already feeling miserable.

Finding dates that suit everyone who needs to be there is tricky.  The President clearly has to be there but she is very busy.  Mr Davies says he has to be there and if Mr Davies is going to be there obviously I have to be there too because we are battling for supremacy and I am not going to let him think he can just go round the country saying Mwa ha ha to CIPA members whenever he feels like it.  Our Chief Shouty Person Mr Lampert ought to be there too, to tell people what he has been shouting about lately, although to be frank if you are in Media & PR surely you can find ways to shout at people from remotely, like loudspeakers and holograms and things. 

Anyway, in the end we have a list of dates and this is good because I can start planning some more of my Meet-the-Members gigs in all sorts of parts of the country even those that are not on the M1.  Only I don’t think I am going to let Mr Davies come along any more, because he is obviously plotting to thwart my plans to rule the world.  That may be why he told me to stand very still by the dartboard that time in the smelly pub in Leicester.

Thursday, 29 January 2015


7 January 2015, 11 am

There is a freak ice-age in the south of England.  It is quite a localised freak ice-age, centred roughly around the South West Trains track near Portsmouth, but it delays several members of the Internal Governance Committee.  Apparently the track is frozen over.  There is of course a de-icing train, but it is stuck to the track because of the ice.  Which is unfortunate.  Mr Davies gets frostbite sending rude tweets to South West Trains and exasperated texts to members of the IGC.  He wants us to be in no doubt about his commitment to internal governance even in the face of such gob-smacking incompetence from his local train operator.

The key thing on the IGC agenda, once Mr Davies has arrived and defrosted (which is a rather noisy process), is outsourcing of the CIPA Journal.  At present the Journal is put together in-house and this is hard work for the CIPA staff.  It means that what with the monthly Council meetings as well, life at 95 Chancery Lane follows a kind of lunatic cycle in which you are always preparing papers for the next monthly deadline or writing up minutes from the last.  Two weeks in every four are devoted to either PCT (Pre-Council Tension) or PJT (Pre-Journal Tension), and during these two weeks it is like all the patent attorneys in the world were gathered in the same EPO hearing room having a mid-life crisis at the same time, and you would not want to be the chairman of that opposition division.  Similarly, during PCT week or PJT week, you would not want to be an employee of South West Trains having to break the news to Mr Davies about a freak heat-wave welding the air conditioning train to the track.

We decide that the best thing to do is to outsource Journal production.  This sounds thoroughly modern and must therefore be a Good Thing.  Obviously the erudite articles would still be written by the erudite patent attorneys, though, because some things you just cannot trust other people to do.

Someone asks me what is Outsauce and what are its ingredients?  We ponder on this for a while.  Eventually I say I don’t think it is that kind of sauce but anyway, surely the whole point of outsourcing is that it is Not Your Problem, so who actually cares what the ingredients are? 

These days you can outsource anything, it seems, if you get bored with doing it yourself.  South West Trains, for example, outsource the provision of commuter rail services to the gods.  However, if you outsource it is sensible to make sure there is still someone in your own office that you can shout at if things go wrong.  It is inconvenient to have to shout at people on Skype®, and often it looks silly too.  Also, for reference, the gods are not on Skype, though clearly Mr Davies is hoping they are on Twitter®.


7 January 2015, 9 pm

After the IGC meeting there was a Council meeting, and after the Council meeting there was a Happy Hour or two at which Mr Davies got drunk enough to tell me what he thought of my manifesto.  He said perhaps I had forgotten but actually he already rules CIPA and if I try to remove its Capital Letters he will personally see me fed to the Solicitors, Mwa ha ha!

People have got to stop saying Mwa ha ha; it is becoming irritating.

On the train home I turn to thinking of all the things I am going to outsource from now on.  Such as cutting my toenails and emptying the bins and being nice to relatives.  And writing my Presidential manifesto.  There must be people in India who can write manifestos for you.  

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The accidental Bond villain

6 January 2015, 9 pm

Soon it will be time to decide whether I can face standing for President.  Lucky CIPA. 

If you stand for office, you should probably have a manifesto I think.  That way, afterwards, you can tell people to stop complaining because you warned them it would happen.  I do a rough first draft of a Presidential manifesto, just to see what it feels like, and it feels quite good although that may be the gin.  But when I show it to my friends at CIPA they think I have gone mental.  They say you have accidentally written a manifesto for a Bond villain and also what is this bit about everybody having to curtsey?  And what does “Mwa ha ha!” mean?

They promise to take a closer look and send me back some tracked changes, to show all the commas I need to remove and all the Capital Letters I need to add.  And I think: my evil plan is shaping up nicely.  While they are distracted with accidental commas I will be secretly taking over the Institute.  And I will remove its Capital Letters one by one and throw them to the Solicitors to feast on and then the ceremonial gavel – sorry, the Ceremonial Gavel – will be MINE, all mine!  Mwa ha ha!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

How little I know about trade marks

6 January 2015, 10.30 am

I attend a meeting of the Trade Marks Committee.  I have not done any trade mark work since they changed the law while I wasn’t looking (perhaps I should have been looking, but in my defence I was having a baby at the time and was a little distracted).  So, I am not able to contribute much, but it is good fun listening anyway.

Things have changed in the trade mark world since I was practising.  It was all about exam reports back then.  You filed a trade mark application; you got an exam report.  The objections were many and varied.  For example, if you tried to register, let’s say, APPLE for computer software, it would be dismissed as:

  • Descriptive for software relating to apples.  (So you would exclude software relating to apples from your specification of goods.)
  • Deceptive for software not relating to apples.  (So you would also exclude software not relating to apples.)
  • Listed in someone’s phone book.
  • The word for something anatomically inappropriate in some West African tribal language.
  • Confusingly similar to MANGO, which is registered for clothes.  (So you would exclude software not relating to apples but relating to mangos.)
  • In colour.
  • In black and white.
  • Not part of a series.
  • Too high up on the page.

These days, I gather trade mark law is much more focused on commercial issues like Is the bloke down the road likely to turn up at your warehouse with a sledgehammer because you’re nicking his customers, or Will you get away with it on Twitter®?  Which I cannot help thinking is slightly nearer the point.

Anyway, it’s alright because the nice people on the Trade Marks Committee are going to start writing beginner-level briefing notes on the major trade mark issues of the day, for CIPA members who would no longer recognise a trade mark if it crossed the road in front of them.  It is perhaps not alright that the Vice-President falls into this category.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

New Year's Day

1 January 2015, 10 past midnight

New year.  Happy orld langzine and welcome all ye dark-haired first-footers wherever ye be!  (And why, oh why, be ye not here?) 

Celebrating in style, as is our wont, we let off the family firework in our garden. 

Our neighbours wait a respectful five minutes, and then ignite several thousand pounds’ worth of Bastille-worthy son et lumière visible from three miles away. 



1 January 2015, 10 am

I make my new year’s resolutions.  In secret, obviously; I wouldn’t want anyone to hold me to them.

They are:

  1. Stop volunteering for things.  Like being Vice-President.
  2. Learn to use a task list properly. 
  3. Find out what UPC stands for: it’s been bugging me for months.
  4. Start taking things seriously.  Having a sense of humour caused me a lot of problems in 2014.
  5. Go and meet more CIPA members.  Because I have absolutely not never eaten too many cakes and biscuits at all.  Also I have not yet visited Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, anywhere in Scotland and several other parts of the UK that may or may not be on the M1.  And Scotland has distilleries.

Christmas Day

25 December 2014

Christmas has descended, like a flurry of fake snow. 

It has taken me several days to wind down from CIPA mode: my family had to speak to me quite firmly about the terms of reference I had drawn up for the Christmas Festivities Sub-Committee, not to mention the project plans for the Christmas dinner.  But they have persuaded me that Christmas does not warrant the same degree of control as, say, a meeting of the Internal Governance Committee.  Also, they say, we do not need to correct the typos in the relatives’ round-robin Christmas letters; indeed there is no clear mechanism for doing so.  I am somewhat disappointed on both counts.  I had wanted to send the letters back saying Your kids may have earned 67 Brownie badges and played violin at the Royal Albert Hall and your husband may be CEO of Swanky Hotels Inc and you may be Chairman of three committees with a social calendar like the Duchess of Cambridge and I don’t know how you ever find time for those gorgeous new pedigree puppies and the 2-acre garden full of chickens and Thai basil not to mention the good-looking gardener who is also no doubt time-consuming, but you still cannot use apostrophes properly I see.

Still, at least the emails have stopped.  Apart from the IPKat, of course, which like other cats is (a) nocturnal and (b) still wrapping itself around your legs even on bank holidays.  Also an ex-client of mine, who long ago decided that my invoices were for making paper planes out of, for some reason awakes on Christmas morning, turns to his LinkedIn® app and endorses me for patent litigation.  Which I do not do.  But apparently he thinks I do.  And this is ever so slightly worrying because I am wondering what I put in my last invoice. 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Ghost of Christmas Future

24 December 2014, 11 pm

’Tis the night before Christmas.  I am visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future.  To be fair, I may also have been visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Christmas Present, but I might have missed them on account of being busy metabolising the mulled wine.

The Ghost of Christmas Future takes me on a guided tour of CIPA HQ.  Instead of the pipe cleaner Christmas tree, there is a monstrosity of a fake tree, festooned with garlands and blingy things, with flashing LED lights at the ends of its branches and an electronic angel harking the herald from on high.  In the kitchen, there are many, many chocolates, and a fridge full of Red Bull®.  In the library, there is a mini-bar (although actually it is not quite that mini) containing fifty different varieties of gin and a manglewurzel.  On the ceremonial dais, where the ceremonial sideboard once stood, there is a bank of footlights and a massive inflatable snow globe.

And I say to the Ghost of Christmas Future: How on earth did CIPA go downhill so fast?  Where is the dignity?  The professional good standing?  The decorum? 

And he shakes his head and points to the wall where the photograph of The Queen used to be.  And I see there is now a large picture of me, standing next to a tractor, in my best scarecrow clothes, and it is labelled “This Year’s Ruthless Dictator”.  It is framed with tinsel.

How can I prevent these atrocities? I cry.  The Ghost of Christmas Future says Don’t worry; there’s no way on earth Council will let it happen.  They have already ordered a new ceremonial sideboard and they are rewriting the Bye-Laws as we speak to make sure no-one becomes a ruthless dictator.  Especially not you.  Happy Christmas.

Getting organised on diversity

18 December 2014

Today’s mini-crisis hinges around my January meeting on diversity.  The IP Lady Minister wants to see the agenda so that she can write her speech.  I have not done an agenda.

I can either confess to being a disorganised numpty or I can write an agenda very quickly.  I take the second option.  I draft a document explaining how the meeting will explore diversity upstream of the profession, at the gates to the profession and inside the profession.  I allow time to discuss the use of cufflinks and of loyal toasts and multiplexed cutlery systems.  I also list the aims of the meeting, which are basically to agree some stuff we can do to make the IP professions more diverse, like having different colours of cufflinks and dispensing with the fish course at ceremonial banquets.

It will be my job to chair the meeting, but I am not sure how fierce I can be in the presence of a Lady IP Minister.  I will definitely need a flip chart this time.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Another argument with the sat nav

17 December 2014, 3 pm

My final rendezvous today is with my mother, who is waiting for me somewhere else in Derbyshire with her suitcase packed and the milk cancelled, in the hope that I will whisk her off to a Christmas of domestic bliss down in the Wess Curntry.  Obviously she is losing her memory, because we have never had a Christmas of domestic bliss in our house even the year when I gave everyone a Cornish pasty.

On the way to my mother’s house, I have an argument with the sat nav.  It tells me to bear left but I am in the right-hand lane, so it shows me a picture of me careering into a blank yonderness of non-roads and then into a reservoir.  I feel this is an unhelpful image.  I shout at the sat nav to get a grip.  Instead it does the exact opposite, bouncing off its dashboard cushion and into my lap, from where it continues to shout muffled instructions into my thigh.  The minute I get a hand free, I throw it onto the passenger seat, where it shouts muffled instructions into what’s left of the mince pie.

My mother offers me a sandwich when I arrive.  I say no thanks I have already eaten a mince pie and half a sat nav.

In the county gaol

17 December 2014

My fourth East Midlands meeting gets off to a good start.  I have accidentally dressed in the corporate colours of the firm I am visiting.  This brings instant approval, and softens the blow about CIPA being rubbish on client accounts.

After the meeting, they show me round the corporate colour scheme.  I am so well camouflaged that they almost lose me.  Eventually they are able to steer me back in the right direction – ie away from their offices – and they hand me a mince pie to keep me going on the journey, which I think is incredibly kind.

My mince pie and I set off for our final meeting.  It is being held in what used to be the Derbyshire county gaol.  When the county gaol closed, the Mayor of Derby went looking for some slightly more up-market tenants but in the end he had to settle for patent agents and they have been there ever since.  Apparently there is some graffiti in the basement, scratched into the door frames by the very first patent agents who moved in.  The graffiti is, of course, impeccably punctuated.  Or perhaps I am mis-remembering that bit of the story. 

Anyway I have a very nice picnic lunch and I talk to some attorneys about the benefits of being involved with CIPA and we all have a good laugh about that.  People have expressed concern that if they join a committee then their competitors will learn all their secrets, shock horror, but I can reassure you, dear reader, that no-one listens to anyone else in CIPA committee meetings so really you have nothing to fear.

In between mouthfuls of crisps, I ask the attorneys whether they value the status accorded by the CPA brand.  They remove the crisp crumbs from their eyes and reply that they value it very highly and are extremely proud to be Chartered Pompous Attorneys.  Their parents are proud of them too.  But possibly their parents do not realise they work in the county gaol.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Thrones, irons & terms of reference

16 December 2014

We drive to Derby, and do another meeting, and then we drive to Nottingham for a third.  Mr Davies goes very quiet on the journey, especially after the run-in with the truck.  He pretends to tweet but actually he is upgrading his life insurance.

The meetings are friendly as ever.  At one of them, we are offered a couple of thrones at the head of the table.  I do not think Mr Davies’s ego is in need of a throne so I vote to sit at the back instead, nearer the biscuits.

Afterwards, Mr Davies goes home and I retreat to a hotel that Unlucky Gary has booked for me in Nottingham.  To my delight, I find my room has a hair dryer, an iron and wi-fi.  I am overwhelmed by the decadence.  I hope this does not mean that CIPA has to sell the pipe cleaner Christmas tree as well as the ceremonial sideboard.

I spend my evening drafting some Terms of Reference for a new upgraded patent administrators’ committee, which will be there to look after patent administrators and their training.  In due course we think every committee should have Terms of Reference because then CIPA members will be able to see at a glance which committee is responsible for which bit of jargon.

It is easy to write Terms of Reference.  You just take the last Terms of Reference someone wrote and change the name of the committee.  Then you do a quick find-and-replace with the list of responsibilities: “patents” to “trade marks”, for instance, or “students” to “administrators”.  Finally, you make sure that the word COUNCIL appears in BLOCK CAPITALS all the time.

I do not know who wrote the very first Terms of Reference but I am exceedingly grateful to them. 

When I have finished drafting the Terms of Reference, I wi-fi them a bit and then I iron them.  Because it seems a waste to have wi-fi and an iron and not use them. 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Leicester - a very Happening and Vibrant City

15 December 2014

Today I begin the M1 part of my Grand Tour.  I have decided I like the M1 much better than the M4, because everywhere really is on the M1.  Like Leicester, for instance, and Nottingham, and Derby, and The North.

I arrive in Leicester.  It seems to me, having conferred with my sat nav on the issue, that the streets of Leicester were designed by Escher, so that wherever you start from, it is impossible to get to where you need to be without violating the fundamental laws of physics, not to mention quite a few parts of the Highway Code.  By the time I meet Mr Davies at the station, I am in an epically bad mood. 

Together, we tramp through the rain to meet some nice CIPA members.  The nice CIPA members tell us that CIPA has been basically totally rubbish about helping with money laundering regulations, and now IPReg says we must all have client accounts but the HSBC’s computer says No because patent attorneys cannot be trusted with client accounts and CIPA have not issued us any guidance about how to deal with all this.  And I cannot help thinking they are right and that my apology will be scant comfort in the circumstances so I ditch my epically bad mood for a moment and ask if they would like some more regional meetings instead.  And they say if by regional you mean Birmingham, no thank you, because Birmingham and Leicester might look close on the map but they sure don’t on the train timetables. 

We return to my car and violate several more parts of the Highway Code on the way to our hotel.  Unlucky Gary has booked it for us.  Obviously it would not be right to spend CIPA money on luxuries, especially during December when most of the budget has already gone on the Christmas lunch and the pipe cleaner Christmas tree, so Gary has found us the cheapest possible hotel without it actually being a refuge.  This hotel hands us a leaflet saying welcome to Leicester which is a very Happening and Vibrant City, but the hotel cafeteria does not appear to be very Happening or Vibrant; even the vending machine looks unsure of itself.  I want to borrow a hair dryer but the hotel has run out of hair dryers because its other guests are using them for company.  Mr Davies wants to borrow an iron and some wi-fi but it is clear these are not going to happen either.

To cheer ourselves up we venture out into the Happening and Vibrant streets of Leicester for a drink.  Mr Davies finds us the smelliest possible pub without it actually being a public convenience.  The pub serves me gin with essence of diesel oil.  Mr Davies practises darts and I go and sit in the ladies’ toilet which smells marginally better than the room with the dart board due to the presence of a bucketful of pot pourri.  I admit to being pleasantly surprised that the concept of pot pourri has reached Leicester; this also appears to be violating one or two fundamental laws.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Christmas lunch day #3 - my Bestest Friends at CIPA

12 December 2014, 5 pm

At some point during the Christmas lunch, it occurs to me that the CIPA people are my new Bestest Friends.  Bester even than the Dutch Apple Cake Pixies.  Almost as bestest, in fact, as the people at my day job, who put up with me swanning in and out to nick paper clips, and are therefore my Firstest Bestest Friends.

Let me introduce you.  First there is Amazing Dwaine, who organised this whole event so as to take his mind off the fact that his partner is about to have their second baby.  Dwaine plays football, or rather, Dwaine used to play football until one day he played it so hard he injured his leg.  He is going to have an operation to make his leg footballable again, and conveniently for all concerned the operation is also round about the time the baby is due.

Then there is Fantastic Fran, who has been at CIPA for longer than is sensible.  And there is Spreadsheet Spurgeon, who has been at CIPA for longer than is healthy.  Spurgeon looks after the accounts and can remember the days when the budget was done on an abacus and the salaries on a slide rule (pre-2010 I think), so you can see why he might enjoy spreadsheets.  Fran can remember the days when the library was full of earnest patent agents combing back-issues of the RPCs for typos, and the cupboards were full of past presidents and their cufflinks.  These days she and Amazing Dwaine put together newsletters and things for the student members.  In the old days no-one even knew we had student members.

Amiable Iain is there to run the Journal, because it is all very well having an Editor mincing around shouting Dahlings! Hold the front page! but there has to be someone who can turn all the waffling and shouting into a document and get it to the printers.  Iain has not quite been at CIPA long enough to remember the days when the Journal was stitched together by hand and delivered in brown paper packages together with a little something for the weekend.

Iain is helped by Crispin, who is a stand-up comedian in his spare time.  I imagine he is never short of material.  Spreadsheet Spurgeon is helped by Andrew, who is not a stand-up comedian but who has the look of someone who would like to be.  Andrew is keen on football, but not enough to injure himself doing it like Dwaine does.

In a special lair full of unpatentable subject matter, Byte-Sized Bill sorts out the Institute’s IT systems.  Every now and then he emerges with some tangled wires, and we are never sure whether these wires were crucial to the IT systems and Bill has only just discovered them, or whether they are superfluous to the IT systems and Bill has decided to throw them out, like he threw out some bits of the database the other day.  No-one dares ask and Bill never tells us.  He is an Unpatentable Enigma.

Charlene and Kirsty and Lisa work in the Membership Team, alongside Fran, Dwaine, Iain, Crispin and the cuddly dinosaur.  It is their job to make things happen for CIPA members.  So when naïve idiots like me say Dahlings! Let’s do a seminar! it is their job to find a venue and a buffet and some seats, on a budget of £5 a head, and to untangle the bookings from the bird’s nest that is the CIPA website.  They make name badges and print programmes and chase speakers for slides and biographies, which some speakers seem to regard as an affront if it happens more than 24 hours before the event, but Charlene and Kirsty and Lisa are patient people and they have plenty of biscuits to eat while they wait.

Alice the Welcome works on reception.  She has a very smiley face, which is great for lulling visitors into a false sense of security, before we show them into the mausoleum I mean library and turn the heating off.  Ms Sear, our Head of Education, also has a smiley face but you have to earn it, and normally most things that an average person might do will be nowhere near sufficient to earn it because Ms Sear has very high standards.  She wants everything to have a Learning Outcome and she has a way of making it clear that it is you who is supposed to be doing the learning.  Angelina and Rebecca are her bodyguards and they have some spare Learning Outcomes for people who have forgotten to bring their own.  They also know a lot about examinations and training courses and they can do project management before you even know you have a project.

Then there is Mr Lampert, our Chief Shouty Person.  Mr Lampert joined CIPA in the summer and he still looks a little bit shocked when he comes into the office of a morning.  This is because he has a desk next to Mr Davies and of the two of them, Mr Lampert is definitely not the most shouty.  He is in charge of the whizzy new e-newsletter and is about to publish a special Christmas edition containing seven whole typos as a treat for patent attorneys to spot: there will be a prize for the person who writes in about them first.

Unlucky Gary looks after Mr Davies’s brain.  He keeps it in a desk drawer under a pile of Post-Its® with swear-words on them, which he holds up as prompts when Mr Davies is on the phone to people.  Mr Davies does not like being prompted, though; it is a drain on his creative energies.  He prefers to ad-lib his swear-words.

Mr Davies himself is the Chief Eggsek.  He is supposed to do as he is told by Council.  Unfortunately no-one spotted, when they recruited him, that he has a website called  This was a massive clue but it got past even the most eagle-eyed of the sober-suited ones.  So now Mr Davies is the irresistibly disruptive force to Council’s immovably conservative object, and Unlucky Gary has to pick up the pieces.

Unlucky Gary was called Unlucky Gary even before he joined CIPA.  Now he is thinking of changing his name to Doomed Gary.

Christmas lunch day #2 - Secret Santa

12 December 2014, 1 pm

The festivities begin.  The staff gather round the CIPA Christmas tree, which is made of pipe cleaners.  They are rather spindly pipe cleaners but at least they are green.

Mr Davies stands beside the tree with a beer in hand and makes a short speech about everyone being lovely to work with.  Then the Secret Santa presents are distributed from under the pipe cleaner tree.  Mine is a book about how to be good at public speaking.  It says anyone can be good at public speaking all you have to do is know how to do it, which I guess goes for most things really although perhaps not chairing CIPA Council meetings.  The book does not say anything about straw.

On we go to a restaurant for our Christmas lunch.  There are some last-minute no-shows so we share out their meals between us.  Mr Davies eats everyone’s sprouts.  Some people crawl under the table for a while.  We all wear our paper hats.

The EyePeePee and the Onssek turn up as well.  The Onssek’s Secret Santa present is a book about golf: it says that anyone can be good at golf all you have to do is know how to do it.  The EyePeePee gets a book about trains: it says that anyone can be interested in trains although if you become too interested you should probably seek counselling and here is a helpline you can ring.  The EyePeePee immediately gets out his phone and a few seconds later, Mr Davies answers his in a funny accent.

I feel bad that I did not get Mr Davies a Secret Santa present.  But they don’t write books about how to wave a large fairy-lit stick around on a stage and if they did Mr Davies wouldn’t need any more encouragement anyway.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Christmas lunch day #1

12 December 2014, 9 am

At Lancaster Gate tube station, my eye is caught by a poster.  It begins with the words: “If three-quarters of your gin and tonic is tonic,…”.

Excuse me?  If three-quarters of your gin and tonic is tonic, you are doing it wrong.


12 December 2014, 11 am

Today it is the CIPA Christmas lunch.  Apparently these used to be most dignified events, which culminated in such a spirit of festive goodwill that everyone was back at the office by 2 pm to continue working.  Since Mr Davies came on board, however, there has been a relentless decline and now the CIPA staff do absolutely no work the entire day, just like in every other office the length and breadth of the country.

But before I do the Christmas lunch, I must do a meeting about the patent administrators’ course.  We are going to update and upgrade the course, which is all very exciting and part of the Strategic Grand Plan to make CIPA so incredibly good at everything it does that even the Not-so-Secret Diary will not be able to damage its reputation.

I am not sure why I have ended up chairing this meeting.  I think it is because they needed somebody with more optimism than common sense.  I stand beside one of the CIPA flip charts to make me feel more optimistic, and from this position of vantage I tell the meeting that I am not going to stand for any nonsense about anything being too difficult or not having worked in the past or being unlikely to work in the future, and nor am I going to stand for any nonsense like details and stuff; we are just going to write some optimistic and woolly things on the flip chart and then Mr Davies is going to turn them into some other kind of chart which apparently is a posh project plan and then we can all get away in time for lunch.  I am pleased to say there seems to be consensus over this approach.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Student induction day #2

8 December 2014, 3 pm

The induction day progresses in style.  A speaker fails to arrive on time, the IT equipment doesn’t work and the laptop keeps sending me pop-up messages in the middle of my presentations.

Laptop: I am about to shut down.  Would you like to postpone? 

Me: No, that’s fine, don’t mind me; shutting down mid-presentation is a super idea and would you like to reconfigure yourself while you’re at it?  Of course I want to postpone!! 

[Five minutes later.]

Laptop: I have some new software for you. 

Me: Yippee.  Go away. 

[Two minutes later.]

Laptop: I still have some new software for you.  Click here to instal. 

Me: No.  Thank you.  Really.  Can I get on with my presentation now?

[One minute later.]

Laptop: Installing new software.  Would you like to postpone? 

Me: Listen, I don’t care if you have a whole new operating system to instal!  Yes, I would like to postpone.  Indefinitely.  [Pause.]  Where have you put my presentation?

Laptop: I have encountered an unexpected problem and have had to stop working.

Me: WHAT??!!!

Laptop: Actually it was not that unexpected.  I encountered the same thing yesterday.

Me: Yes but–

Laptop: And the day before.

Me: But what about my–

Laptop: Would you like me to send you an error report?

To add insult to injury, one of our speakers begins his talk about stress in the workplace with a story about some commuters stuck on a delayed train.  This is not tactful.  Then he explains that one of the symptoms of stress is irritability.  On reflection, perhaps it was a little rash of me to hurl the laptop at him.

Farewell to the ceremonial sideboard

8 December 2014, 10 am

What is this???  At CIPA Hall, on the ceremonial dais, the ceremonial sideboard has been removed.  Gone!  No-one seems to know where.  Perhaps it fell through a crack in the fabric of space and time, like some of the old Council members did.  Or perhaps it accidentally fell into one of the skips on Chancery Lane, having accidentally made its way to an appropriately orientated third floor window. 

I have to say, it is nice to have an uninterrupted view of the delegates.  It is possibly less nice for them to have an uninterrupted view of my CIPA boots.  But the new arrangement will work well for the Council pantomime.

An hour in Slough

8 December 2014, 8 am

For a reason I have pretty much forgotten, but which I think had something to do with there being too many people at last year’s event so that it became uncomfortably exothermic, we are on our third student induction day of 2014. 

The speakers are old hands at this now.  We have been giving these talks since 2010 and we can virtually do them in our sleep.  There is certainly evidence that we can do them in the delegates’ sleep.

On my way there, I spend an hour in Slough.  Not because I want to see Slough, especially at 8 o’clock on a cold December morning, but because First Great Western® are conducting an evil psychological experiment to see how much pressure you can apply to a tin-can full of commuters before they crack.  So they have stopped the 0630 for an hour to watch the sun come up, and are feeding us inane and repetitive misinformation to increase our stress levels.

Actually we cope very well.  We are used to using the London train as a remote office and we just keep working.  No-one tries to climb out of a window.  No-one starts to whimper.  No-one stands up to incite a revolt.  To be honest, if you have had to catch the 0630 from the Wess Curntry to the city on a Monday morning, you are probably not going to be too perturbed by the prospect of not arriving.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Lo! A new CIPA Committee is born!

5 December 2014, 4 pm

Another tweet announces that, lo! CIPA’s new Education and Professional Standards Committee is born.  Hoorah!  This new committee has been spawned of the old Education Committee, but the new one has Terms of Reference.  What could possibly go wrong? 

Actually, the last time anyone had Terms of Reference at CIPA, they had to be marched off the premises in a state of confusion.

The Terms of Reference require the new Committee to plan things and do stuff.  This is a little unusual for a committee, but maybe it will make for livelier meetings, should the standard CIPA agenda (which is largely made up of apologies, for not being there, not having been there, not having read the papers, not having received the papers, not having sent the papers, not having done the actions allotted at the last meeting and not intending to do the actions likely to be allotted at the current one) prove too boring.

The EPSComm has no members right now, but it does have a Chairman.  I wish him luck.

Monday, 5 January 2015

The chemistry of gin (and mango)

5 December 2014, 2 pm

Mr Davies tweets a link to an article about gin.  This article says you should forget drinking gin and tonic with lemon or lime; you must drink it with mango.

It is not easy to source tropical fruits in the Wess Curntry, but I am assuming a manglewurzel is pretty much the same as a mango and so will happily give it a whirl once I’ve dug one up and brushed the soil off.

I am, however, a little suspicious about the accuracy of the article.  Actually if you are a ginoisseuse like me you will know that the type of fruit that matches a gin depends on the botanicals in the gin, and every gin is different.  Some contain elderflower and orange peel; some contain cucumber; some contain things you’d find lodged under an elephant’s toenails.  And some of the cheaper ones, particularly the ones sold at airports, contain essence of diesel oil.  So, because I am a chemist and know about these things, and also a bit of a pedant especially after a gin or four, I would question whether mango is right for every gin.  For an airport gin, for example, wouldn’t a spoonful of engine sludge be a better accompaniment?

The article goes on to say that you must serve your gin with lots of ice.  Correct.  Then it says you should serve it in a balloon glass so as to allow the aromas to escape and reach your nose, “as they would with a fine wine”.  Again, excuse me, but if you cool something down with lots of ice, the last thing the aromas are going to do is escape.  They are going to huddle together at the bottom of the glass, like we have to at 95 Chancery Lane these days because the heating is so rubbish. 

Finally, the author says that the mango-gin combination creates “a chemical reaction that basically causes a flavour explosion in your mouth.”  Well.  As a chemist, I do like a good reaction, especially one that basically causes an explosion.  But is it nitpicking to want to see the equation for this reaction?

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Door of Warmth & Friendship (or: What happened at Council)

3 December 2014

The Christmas Cake Pixies have delivered festive cakes and biscuits ready for the last Council meeting of the year.  And the EyePeePee has arranged them in a neat symmetrical pattern on the refreshments table, because there is nothing more disturbing than an asymmetric refreshment.

Coincidentally, the President and I were at the shops this morning looking at exactly the same types of festive cakes and biscuits and coincidentally we bought some of them too.  It is amazing how often I shop at exactly the same place and time as the Pixies and buy exactly the same things.

One of the first items we discuss in the meeting is the Bye-Laws rewrite.  The Constitutional Committee has been having some high-level ideas about the things we might want to put in the new Bye-Laws and the things we might like to consult CIPA members about.  But first we must ascertain whether these amendments “will be”, “may be”, “could be” or “should be” considered, because it is important that the document which lists the things they are going to write some other documents about is precise.  Unfortunately we do not have time to decide how the document is going to refer to the type of meetings that the Committee might be or would be considering writing another document about, so we have to take the rather unsatisfactory step of leaving this question open for the time being.  Therefore it is entirely possible that AGMs and OGMs may be renamed as Big Meetings and Little Meetings at some point in the future.

Then comes the time when we have to discuss whether I have been naughty and undignified and generally Let the Side Down.  The Internal Governance Committee said I hadn’t, but Council wants to be absolutely sure. 

Being a human being and all, I find these discussions distressing.  And being a complete lightweight in such situations, I feel compelled to leave the meeting to blow my nose on my posh jacket sleeve.  The CIPA Membership Team, who live at the far end of the corridor behind the Door of Warmth and Friendship, are very kind; they offer me tea and chocolates and tactfully pass me a napkin to use instead of my sleeve.  I am a little uncomfortable about this as I was taught it is not polite to blow your nose on your napkin.  But perhaps that only applies when you are using it to eat with.

Behind the Door of Warmth and Friendship there also resides a cuddly dinosaur.  The Membership Team encourage me to clutch this to make me feel better, although obviously not to blow my nose on it.  I say I have had enough of dinosaurs for one day thank you, but they insist.

Thus recomposed, I return to the Council meeting (through the Door of Properness) and try to look all sedate and professional as though nothing has happened and I have not been snivelling into a cuddly dinosaur.  Apparently while I was gone they decided I had not Let the Side Down, or at least no more than they would have expected.  They have already moved on to discussing regional meetings.  But I think perhaps the Sober-Suited Ones are embarrassed by my indecorous show of emotion and would really rather I had kept a Stiff Upper Lip because then they would not have had to avert their gazes and worry about hormones and things.

To cover their embarrassment, a few of them take me for a gin and tonic afterwards.  And then possibly wish they hadn’t.  But did they really expect me to only drink one??  (And did you really expect me to not split an infinitive?)

Back home, my teenage daughter cold-shoulders me for being a Bad Mum and not being there to watch her last three bad moods.  And my husband shows me our first Christmas card of the year, which is a blow because I had forgotten you were supposed to do cards as well.  Seems like some days you’re just destined to lose.

Still, on the plus side, the fish pies have arrived.  They do smell good.

Getting excited about diversity

2 December 2014

I am so excited!  The Baroness IP Minister Lady is coming to my meeting about diversity.  She is going to make a speech.  And she is going to bring IPO people with her.

Lots of other IP folk are coming too, as well as the man from Generating Genius who turns ragamuffins into scientists.  So now we know that CIPA is important and influential and we can do Big Things.

There are some who say that diversity isn’t a problem in the IP professions.  We already have enough of it, they say, and if we don’t it is not our fault it is down to the universities and the schools and the careers advisers.  And I say, ok then, how come the CIPA President still gets given cufflinks?  And how come our celebration dinners have three sets of cutlery, and we say grace in Latin and toast The Queen even though many of us believe more in the Biscuit Pixies than we do in the monarchy?  If this is diversity, then it strikes me it is the kind of diversity on which the British Empire was built: like, everyone is welcome; in fact joining is positively encouraged, so long as you drink tea in the afternoons and hunt foxes in the mornings and always pass the port in the right direction. 

I'm willing to bet we can improve things, anyway.  Let's leave it at that for now.