Friday 12 September 2008

Reflections of LexisNexis SOLO Meeting at Olswang

A group is not a community unless it meets face to face. The nice picture by Phisica illustrates that a mirror may provide instant gratification for a child. But it's not enough for a solo IP practitioner.

On Wednesday evening Jeremy Phillips kindly hosted us at Olswang's offices and a select band of solo IP practitioners could be observed vaulting over boardroom tables and large leather chairs to get to talk to one another. The presentation for the evening was by Lexis Nexis and this had brought out many practitioners who practice on the softer side of IP. There was a diverse range of experience both of the law and practice alone. We had competition on the night from an IPI presentation at which the CEO of the UK Intellectual Property Office, Ian Fletcher was speaking on the future of IP, which sadly meant that some of our agency-focused members had defected to that, even though they did have to pay £50.

The Lexis Nexis team told us about their four pillars of activity deemed to provide all the IT tools that any practice of any size could ever want. Most of the audience were familiar with the case law research tools and had, perhaps like myself experienced training sessions on the use of the user interface. It's that interface and its ease of use rather than the data that provides a competitive advantage to companies like Lexis Nexis and Westlaw. However, neither outfit seems to have access to all the resources which can be frustrating for those who cannot afford to learn to use two interfaces let alone pay for them. Jeremy Phillips has already started a debate on this on the IPKat.

The team also introduced the client development and practice management tools and spent some time explaining the suite of patent research and drafting tools, which were of particular interest to me. These are products that have been primarily aimed at the US market, which is far more sophisticated in their business models, and it will be interesting to see how the rather more fragmented and parsimonious UK patent agency world regards them. Once we have tried them out look out for more on this subject.

It surprised me that several people expressed an interest in precedents especially as last year only one solo member took up the offer of a trial subscription to the Lawtel product. Let me know if you're still interested. Meanwhile Peter Groves - the famous IP runner, volunteered to start contributing to our blog and it occurred to us that we could use our GoogleGroups page to load documents that we were prepared to share. No warranties, no promises and no liabilities of course - we are all lawyers and responsible for our own work product. This page is only accessible to members of the group which you can join by using the link on the left to receive postings by e-mail.

Another subject of debate both during the meeting and at the Bung Hole afterwards was exchanging recommendations to overseas lawyers. Between us we certainly have a wealth of knowledge which mostly we would be delighted to share. While the group has been in existence I have certainly put quite a number of members in touch with each other and made some good connections that are very helpful in my own practice. Perhaps we now need to move to a more sophisticated solution for exchanging references. Any ideas? However, good conversation over a glass of wine is often an excellent way to build up a working relationship and we will certainly be arranging more meetings in the future.

As regards new meetings, the credit crunch seems to have made people slightly more relucant to offer me free rooms. A warm dry space with chairs and access to basic refreshments is all that is needed and you get masses of publicity for your generosity. So once again thanks to Olswang for hosting this meeting. As they probably now have the sole remaining UK legal patent prosecution team, I do hope Lexis Nexis made a sale there.

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