quip being made as to whether such behaviour could be a bribe.
Since the media encourages a very judgemental attitude to those who transgress in any way - whether they be MPs in receipt of expenses, newspaper publishers or looters, it's not a good idea to find yourself on the wrong side of the law. However,creating such an environment of angst does make life difficult for those who promote their businesses using sponsorship. Once upon a time, there was some credibility that if you were speaking at a conference you were a legal expert. Now that your contribution is clearly marked as that of a sponsor, its value is much degraded. Have a look at the programme for the Legal Week Corporate Counsel Conference.
Today I received a query from CIPA - the professional body of UK patent attorneys - who are making a risk assessment exercise concerning the activities of the Institute in order to establish a Bribery Act policy. Apart from a few paid staff, all work done for the benefit of the Institute is by volunteer members. The retired ones maybe do it for love because they like to keep in touch, but those who could be earning substantial hourly rates, justify their involvement to their partners by the kudos they receive as a member of Council or as a speaker at a CIPA conference.
Equally, I was rather surprised that ITMA circulated all its members with the suggestion that they should volunteer to speak at the London evening meetings. We thought they invited the best qualified speakers, but perhaps they felt they had to be more open. Even so, if you volunteer, you will be branded a self publicist rather than an altruist - most people would prefer to be invitedas a result of peer-reviewed recommendation and it seems now that invitations are at risk of being considered bribes. Those on the outside are always afraid of a closed shop, especially if they cannot see the door. Just look at the comments on our last post on the supply of intellectual property advice in Northern Ireland.
Maybe the Bribery Act will have the effect of introducing greater transparency into the selection and payment of speakers at allegedly educational events. Nevertheless, we may find that the absence of good wine and dining incentives, because they might be considered as a bribe, will threaten the whole business model under which professional bodies like CIPA and ITMA operate. Do you think that's a good thing?