Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Calorie-free IP awareness-raising

16 March 2015, 3 pm

In London, Mr Davies and I go to meet some more CIPA members and their biscuits.  We are both trying not to eat calories today, and as everybody knows, biscuits are exactly where calories hide, so we decline the good-looking stuff and concentrate on the CIPA members instead.  They are saying we need to do something to raise awareness of IP and the IP professions.  They are not the first to say this and they probably won’t be the last.  You’d have thought we’d have come up with an answer by now. 

But the fact is, there is just so much to do and so few volunteers to help with it, and when it comes to spreading the word about IP you have to concede we are hampered by the fact that IP is essentially quite dull until you understand it, at which point it becomes essentially quite scary.  And there is no middle-ground for the people who would like not to be bored rigid but also not to be kept awake at night wondering if they have enough insurance.

Mr Davies’s latest harebrained scheme is to ask Professor Brian Cox to help us make IP more exciting, like rocket science and solar eclipses.  He has recently been appointed the Royal Society’s Professor for Public Engagement in Science, so it is about time he started getting the public engaged in patents as well because what is the point having science without patents?

But Professor Brian Cox has not yet answered our letter.

As we leave the meeting, our hosts are already stuffing their pockets with the uneaten biscuits.  You can almost hear the calories laughing. 

Monday, 27 April 2015


16 March 2015, 10 am

“Right!” I shout.  “Gather round the flip charts!  We are going to make some plans.  Da-da-da-DA!!!”

My audience is the new Diversity Task Force.  It is great to have a task force again; I had forgotten how much fun I had with the namby-pamby non-core skills one.  I think I will impose a uniform again.  For half of us, the standard blue tights and red underpants.  For the other half, red tights and blue underpants.  A uniform is a Good Thing, but perhaps not when your aim is to improve diversity.

I herd people into four working groups, with a flip chart each, and tell them to make some plans for stuff we are going to do to improve diversity.  Towards the end, I gather everyone together again.  This is called a Plenary Session. 

I say to the first group, in my most plenary voice: “So, what have you decided?”  They say: “We have decided that this part of the task is very difficult and complex and we will need bags of time to do it in and lots of external funding.”  This stumps me.  I think perhaps there has been some misunderstanding about the words “task” and “force” and “action” and “plan”, and possibly also “working group”.  So I tell them: “Nonsense!”, trying to sound brave and plenary, “let’s just start on some little bits of this awesomely insurmountable task shall we, dip our toes in the water so to speak?” 

And they look at me as if to say: “You haven’t a clue what’s going on, have you?”

And I cannot deny it.  But having a clue what’s going on is an over-rated virtue.  Having a clue what’s going on is just asking for you to give up in despair.  And anyway it is better not to fill your brain with information – for instance about what’s going on – because then you have more space left for processing.  My brain is like RAM: there is not a lot in there at any one time, but feed it a question and it will give you an answer quite quickly, unimpeded by realism or caution or sense.  Usually: “Yes, why not?” or “Looks good to me.”

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Unlabelled receiving means

16 March 2015, 9 am

On my way to CIPA, I manage to post a £20 note into the dustbin section of a self-service checkout. 

In my defence, I was extremely stressed.  The machine had rejected my credit card twice for no reason other than sheer bloody-mindedness, and in scrabbling around for cash from the depths of my straw-filled rucksack, I omitted to look sufficiently carefully at the different available orifices into which said cash might be introduced.  (They were not labelled.)  As a patent attorney, however, I am used to functional concepts: I found a receiving means, and it seemed to receive the £20 note alright, and only then did I spot a more appropriate-looking receiving means elsewhere.

I am so livid, I spend another five minutes inserting straw into the slot, stem by stem, just to teach them to label their receiving means properly.  My loathing for the self-service checkout goes up a notch to only-just-bearable-without-therapy.

I think I am likely to be banned from this shop.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Rushing around the CAPITAL

12 March 2015

I invite myself to the Informals’ Committee meeting, to let them know that Big CIPA still cares about  them.  They politely overlook the fact that I am Old and Outdated, and they very kindly buy me a drink and offer to send me some minutes afterwards.  I listen to them talking about the training and social events they are organising up and down the country, and I feel very humble because at Big CIPA we sometimes struggle to organise a plate of biscuits.

Then I rush across London to a posh dinner with a group called UNION-IP.  No-one at UNION-IP is able to tell me exactly what the group is about and who it is for, much less why it writes its name in CAPITALS so much of the time, but I see it has a website and a Wikipedia entry so I think they are perhaps not trying hard enough.  Anyway, because I arrive late due to being an Old Person guest at the Informals’ meeting, I end up being served my starter, main course and pudding all at the same time.  I eventually catch up but I’m not convinced it was a particularly elegant affair.

UNION-IP is known for having influential speakers at its dinners, like judges and senior patent office people.  Tonight’s speaker is from the IPO and he is telling us about patent harmonisation.  Lots of countries want global patent harmonisation, he says, but every country has its own version of Harmony and usually this looks pretty much like its own current patent system.  Also every country would like to be able to opt out of the bits of Harmony it doesn’t like.  And to provide more Harmony for its own nationals than for foreigners.  Then there are the regional offices, who would also like to be in charge of Harmony but on a bigger scale, although clearly in the case of the EPO it may be difficult to find harmony of any kind right now, particularly among its workforce.

The PRESIDENT of UNION-IP points out that if there is HARMONY then we will all be out of a JOB.  No worries.  There will be a few jobs spare at the EPO by then.

Friday, 24 April 2015

A manifesto is born

10 March 2015

Mr Davies has condensed 52 pages of flip chart scribbles into two pages of proper, posh CIPA manifesto.  It is impressive.  He has peppered it with long words to make us think we actually came up with something cogent at our not-a-Council-meeting.  And he has set the noun:verb ratio suitably high so as to show the government that we are a Proper Serious Institute, which is also why a lot of the document is in the passive voice and the nothing-to-do-with-me-this-is-a-declaration-from-on-high third person singular.  CIPA is proud of its manifesto and the reader is invited to support it.

Mr Davies was no ordinary plumber.  His customers were invited to attend to the maintenance of their own drainage outlets.

Of course, we do not know which flavour of government will ultimately have to deal with our noun-rich proposals.  However, it seems likely that whoever takes charge of the UK this May, they are going to take some persuading that IP is a big agenda item, and that is exactly what this manifesto is for.  We want the world to be in no doubt about its priorities when it comes to intangible assets.

We will be doing a separate Idiot’s Guide to IP for Those in Power, and that will not be peppered with long words and passive verbs.  It will be more along the lines of: This is a patent.  This is a trade mark.  Jane has a patent.  Peter has a patent.  The patent is not copyrighted.  The trade mark is nothing to do with the performing arts.  No-one has patented human life yet.  The creative industries are not the only ones who have IP.  Look, Jane, this is an engineer!

I add my comments to Mr Davies’s amazing draft.  They don’t make it any better.  But they do make me feel useful.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

IP and bankers

5 March 2015

I meet with some people from ITMA and some people from the IPO, to talk about IP audits and spreading the IP message to SMEs.  The conversation turns to the IP triage thing I suggested when they were foolish enough to let me address a roomful of business advisers last autumn.  We think IP triage is a great idea, say the people from the IPO. 

There is a pause, whilst we all think about the great idea, and how great it would be to have IP triage check-lists and IP triage training for business advisers, and business triage training for IP attorneys.  And then there is another pause, whilst we all think about how we have no spare time in which to do those things and how nice it would be if someone else said they would do them for us.

After the two pauses, we agree to “give it some more thought”.  This is meeting-speak for putting it on the to-do list, moving it on every week and hoping no-one will mention it again until next time. 

The IPO people show us their about-to-be-published pamphlet called the “IP Finance Toolkit”.  The purpose of this pamphlet is to help businesses explain to their bank managers why it is OK to lend them money using their IP as security.  This is not something bank managers are renowned for doing.  The pamphlet has a check-list of ways to convince your bank manager – or more likely your Customer Relationship Manager who lives 250 miles away – that your IP is genuine and is being properly managed and is actually in better shape than either your office or your car.

It seems odd to me that bankers, who have no trouble at all with things like derivatives and futures, should be reluctant to lend money against a patent or trade mark.  At least patents and trade marks actually exist.  Not like derivatives, which are not only intangible but downright incomprehensible and are in any case themselves derived from other, even less tangible, things that seem only vaguely associated with reality.  If IP is the Emperor’s new clothes (and who am I to suggest that but, hey, just saying), then derivatives are surely his new potential dry cleaning bills.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Creative writing and life advice (and scaring the auditor)

3 March 2015

I spent most of yesterday and today writing my speech.  When you are a brilliant creative writer like me ha ha, at least a third of your writing time is spent looking out of the window in search of inspiration, and another third preparing and consuming refreshments.  And that is my excuse for only having written three pages in two days and for most of the three pages to be less interesting than the washing instructions on my underwear. 


4 March 2015, 11 am

We have invited the auditor to our Internal Governance Committee meeting.  The auditor said he was too busy but he sent a junior auditor instead and the junior auditor looks like he wishes he’d been too busy as well.  He wears a pained expression.  He explains anxiously, and in detail, the notes to the annex to the bit about the audit that really counts.  He does not say anything much about our actual finances. 

We suspect the auditors have absolutely no idea what CIPA does for a living and don’t like to ask.  They probably think we are some kind of self-help group for misguided old codgers. 


4 March 2015, 10 pm

Now I am in a hotel room writing a last-minute blog for the IPO, who have realised that it is International Women’s Day on Sunday and couldn’t think of anyone better suited to write a last-minute blog about women and IP than someone who is not much good at either but known for being a prolific keyboard-basher.

In my blog, I say that women do not have to be domestic goddesses in order to make it in the world of IP.  It is enough just to be good at IP, I say.  I feel the need to state this because it is not always immediately obvious from the stuff people write about women in the professions. 

I have a 700-word limit, so I am not able to include my Vital Advice to Women in IP Who Are Not Domestic Goddesses.  But clearly, whilst it is OK not to be a domestic goddess, there are certain social and professional situations which you then need to steer clear of.  Like, inviting people round to your place for dinner.  Like, agreeing to make birthday cakes or fancy dress costumes for your offspring (because that is what supermarkets are for).  

Friday, 17 April 2015

Farewell East Anglia

27 February 2015

I have been to eight meetings in the East Anglia region.  I have been to Cambridge and Ipswich and somewhere called Colchester.  I have taken six train journeys and eleven taxi journeys.  One of the taxi drivers got grumpy with me because all I had was a street name and number and I had inconsiderately not bothered to print out a Google map, a full grid reference and a colour photograph of the building I was aiming for.  Eventually we agreed that since he was a taxi driver, and I was a passenger, and since my suitcase was in his boot, it was perhaps worth having a little go at finding my destination.  He took me straight to the door.   

I used to be a very British kind of tipper, figuring that the more rudely I was treated, and the more awkward I felt, the larger the tip I should pay to compensate for the stress and inconvenience I had caused.  Today I realised the error of my ways.  It was a most liberating feeling.

Everyone - apart from the aforementioned taxi driver - has been friendly, and everyone has said it is nice that someone from Council has made the effort to come to see them because now they don’t need to make the effort to come to see us.  They have also told me to get my finger out to make sure regulation is proportionate and they have made many useful suggestions which I have written down in my special seditious notebook.  Some day soon, when I am feeling particularly mischievous, I will put all these suggestions together into a massive report for Council.

But now I am on my way home to Zummerzet, exhausted.  And I still haven’t written that speech.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A very long day in Cambridge

25 February 2015

Mr Davies is up bright and early, hoping his remote-controlled inflatable fish has arrived.  While we are waiting, we visit another firm of CIPA members.  Then we return to the Cambridge CPD seminar.  This has been billed as a Smörgåsbord of short talks on a range of IP-related topics.  Inevitably, the speakers are incapable of sticking to their time slots, and so it is more of an all-you-can-eat buffet of normal-length talks.

Happy hour follows.  I am not very happy because there is no gin and tonic, only some sparkling wine stuff which makes you feel like you’ve been sneezing vinegar.  On an empty stomach, two glasses is enough to render your mouth more articulate than your brain, but I fail to notice this vital clue and carry on talking anyway.

There is some posh food.  The pudding is a giant profiterole, the size of a bagel, or perhaps it is a Yorkshire pudding and I have mis-sequenced the courses in some way.  I am still talking, only now I am talking with my mouth full.

The giant profiterole is followed by an orienteering trip round the streets of Cambridge, via a number of most welcoming hostelries, which ends up back where we started.  Whilst we are away someone puts the clocks forward.  3 am comes and goes.  There is a game of Pictionary and a kebab, in that order.  I do not know why.  I find I am still talking.  In fact, there are now only three of us talking, and one of them has a mouthful of kebab. 

I was supposed to be writing a speech tonight after the posh dinner.  I realise this is not going to happen when I find myself setting my alarm for a time that is already nearly an hour ago. 


26 February 2015

I do four “meet-the-members” visits.  I wonder how obvious it is that I am not actually conscious.  Mr Lampert joins me for the first two, after which he loses interest in pretending to be conscious and heads for home.

Luckily, wherever I go, the Biscuit Pixies have been there first, and this is what sustains me through the long day.  For one meeting the Pixies have delivered pink wafery party biscuits, which apparently I was talking about in some detail in the pub last night.  This really is magical.  I cannot remember the last time someone listened to me in a pub and then actually went and did something about it afterwards.   

Monday, 13 April 2015

A manifesto, some Women in IP, and an inflatable fish

21 February 2015

I finish writing my Presidential manifesto and post it on my blog.  I tell Twitter® and LinkedIn® and my mum that I have done this.  The first two ignore me and the third forgets all about it.  Perhaps I have not made it saucy enough. 


24 February 2015, 10 am

Yay!  I am at the Women in IP Forum, to which I have accidentally been invited after all just to shut me up.  In amongst a sea of Women in IP, there are three or four Men in IP, who are being very, very careful to shut up and not fidget.  There is an awkward moment as we file out for coffee, because the men are not sure whether they are allowed to hold the door open for us.  One of them, true to his upbringing, decides it is only polite to hold a door for a woman.  He is still holding it when the coffee break ends.

It is reassuring to find that a Women in IP forum is like any other IP forum, in that there are talks about IP and questions about IP and not enough glasses of water to go round.

I leave early, feeling thirsty, and go to see IPReg.  The Pee is there too, along with two VeePees from ITMA who are our Friends because we are still hoping to get invited to their parties.  I do not think IPReg are very pleased to see us, but they give us some sandwiches anyway. 


24 February 2015, 5 pm

Mr Davies and I have come to visit a CIPA member who works in Cambridge but is sad because there are no other patent attorneys in his office.  Personally I cannot see why this makes him sad; in fact I would have thought it was cause for celebration.

Our host is much more pleased to see us than IPReg were.  After a brief chat about CIPA, he disappears for a while, looking very excited, and returns carrying a cardboard box.  The box contains a giant, remote-controlled inflatable fish.  He is very proud of this fish.  He says he uses it to teach his colleagues about the patent system.  He has some patent documents to go with it; they contain drawings of other remote-controlled inflatable things that a less patent-savvy person might think make the fish look Obvious.  And an examination report that says yes indeed the fish is Obvious.  Plus a solicitor’s letter that says Obvious or not, we are going to sue the pants off you (only that is not a threat, you understand; we are merely bringing the patent and the pants to your attention).

Mr Davies is over the moon.  He looks as though he’s been invited to six darts matches all on the same day.  Bring your fishy documents to Chancery Lane, he says excitedly, and we will teach the CIPA staff about the patent system too!  And he instantly goes online to purchase his own remote-controlled inflatable fish and a canister of helium.  I say are you not supposed to be the Chief Eggsek and doing serious things like Conflict of Interest policies and manifestos and audit reports and rewriting the Council minutes which you made too life-like last time?  But he is not listening.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Rewriting bits of the Bye-Laws

20 February 2015, 1.30 pm

At the last Council meeting, Council said What’s all this about amending membership categories in the Bye-Laws?  You can’t do that.  You can only amend the bits about holding meetings.

So we reconvene the Working-Group-for-Rewriting-the-Bye-Laws-but-only-Bits-of-Them.  And we do not talk about membership categories at all, no sir.  But we do talk about how to elect the President and the Vice-President.  It becomes apparent in this context that you can either have Democracy, where CIPA members are free to vote for anyone they want but no-one volunteers to be voted for, or you can have Succession Planning, in which case Council finds a potential Vice-President and tells CIPA members they are free to vote for that person, and CIPA members then say What kind of choice is that?  This creates a tension that is difficult to resolve.  So we do not resolve it.

We do not decide anything about holding meetings either.  Perhaps we are hoping to do that next time.  The ceiling-mounted espionage system gazes down on us sadly, then winks at me.  My heart soars.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Building a new website

20 February 2015, 11.30 am

I am helping, in my own small way, to build a new CIPA website.  This involves someone from outer space ringing me up and taking control of my desktop for a while.  The voice from outer space then gives me some tasks to complete and watches how well I do.  Actually this may not be to do with the website at all, but a covert way of proving how unfit I am for office.  They are already worried that I spend too long talking to the ceiling-mounted espionage system.

My tasks involve trying to find things on the current CIPA website.  This is a laugh.  We all know that you cannot find anything on the current CIPA website.  You might stumble upon it by accident.  You might get redirected to it when you were hoping to find something else.  But if you go looking for it deliberately, you will be lost for ever in a maze of discombobulating long-running scripts.

I am told to find my way to the members’ bulletin boards.  Why would I want to do that?  The bulletin boards are where the Council papers go; I avoid them like the plague.  Then I am told to find some erudite CIPA textbooks.  I am asked if I like the CIPA textbooks page.  It is very pretty, I say.  Shame about the textbooks.

Finally I am told to find my way to the job vacancies.  Hmm.  Tactful.

I think I have probably failed some of the tests.  They were stupid tests anyway.  But on the plus side, I have learned how to get back to the Home Page.  I have always wondered how you did that. 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

What I did at half-term

17 February 2015

I have discovered a new gin.  It is called Bath Gin.  But I do not think you are supposed to put it in your bath like, say, a Bath Oil or a Bath Bomb.  So I am drinking it instead.

Bath Gin is made with kaffir lime leaves, so apparently I must drink it with a kaffir lime leaf in.  I am not impressed with the result.  It makes the gin taste like a Thai curry.  Not that I have anything against Thai curry: I just do not think it goes well with tonic. 


18 February 2015

There is a misunderstanding on the domestic front and my family accidentally take me to the seaside for the day.  The seaside is strewn with fish and chips and people trying to pretend it isn’t cold and smelly.  Still, I have to concede it is better than London, where people don’t even bother pretending.

While I am away:

  • the new Education & Professional Standards Committee launches its recruitment campaign.  Its chairman has recorded a come-join-me video.  It is an engaging video, with a warmth and humanity not often seen in patent attorneys, although I suspect it will not go viral.
  • the Patents Committee writes to the EPO telling them how to run themselves properly, and Mr Lampert shouts a lot about how great and influential CIPA is, which is true, but I think perhaps Mr Battistelli might have a different way of describing it.
  • emails pour in from people volunteering to join the diversity task force.  They have obviously not read my Action Plan properly.
  • Mr Davies returns from the dead.  Though only just.  He is still quite fragile, obviously.
  • A couple more people volunteer to stand for Council.  They have obviously not read the last three Council reports properly. 

Namby-pamby non-core webinars

16 February 2015

I have coffee with someone from ITMA and we discuss our plans for namby-pamby non-core training.  We make a long list of the training events we are going to organise.  But they are unlikely to happen soon, because neither of us has done our namby-pamby time management training.  So we still fall into that trap of thinking something sounds a great idea and forgetting that we haven’t written up the last great idea yet.

Afterwards, I chair a namby-pamby non-core webinar about performance management.  I begin with a very silly introduction in a very silly voice.  As a result, the delegates turn the volume right down on their speakers and can’t subsequently hear the presenter.  Sigh.  I guess if the VeePee were a paid position I would have been fired long ago.  As it is, they are just grateful I didn’t use the Cowtrackingclangingthingen from Österreich. 
I then have a chat with Mr Lampert about the shouty things he is going to put in his next e-newsletter.  He knows by now, as do the webinar delegates, that if you need shouty things, I am the person to come to.  Mr Davies can also do shouty stuff, but his tends to come out decorated with swear-words.  Mr Lampert is not allowed to put swear-words in the e-newsletter.

Finally, I have a chat with Spreadsheet Spurgeon, about CIPA’s budget for the year after the year after the one that happened a while ago, which is two years before the one that nobody cares about yet.  He shows me a spreadsheet.  He asks how many namby-pamby non-core webinars we are going to put on next year.  I say thousands, because I remember the plans I made with my friend from ITMA.  But, I add, they may not be as profitable as last year because I might not have time to organise speakers.