Thursday 31 July 2008

Next meeting: LexisNexis in the hot-seat

The next meeting of the SOLO IP group -- which is free and to which you are all invited -- is on Wednesday 10 September 2008, 5.00pm to 6.30pm at the London office of Olswang. The keynote speaker is Stuart Greenhill, who is improbably titled as the "Small & Mid Law Market Champion" for LexisNexis. For his own support, comfort, guidance and possibly protection he's bringing a colleague, Bruce Dullea, who is the LExisNexis IP Solutions Consultant.

Right: pressing the 'help' button, I noticed a dramatic improvement in the guidance on online information ...

This will be an interactive session, since Stuart and Bruce are coming to listen and to discuss as well as to speak. Once the serious part of the meeting is over, there will an opportunity to nibble some delicacies while sipping a glass or three of an appropriate beverage.

If you're planning on coming, please email Jeremy and let him know.

Monday 28 July 2008

Summer sale

If you've not bought these books already at their full price, you can probably manage without them at their reduced price too -- but Thomson/Sweet & Maxwell (which one is it?) is currently holding an IP Grand Summer Sale, with 20% reductions on some of its IP titles. Featured products are

* Domain Names: Global Practice and Procedure;

* Practical Intellectual Property Precedents;

* Encyclopedia of UK and European Patent Law (you can save £171.20 on this one);

* Trade Marks, Trade Names & Unfair Competition: World Law and Practice;

* The Community Trade Mark Handbook;

* The Trade Mark Handbook.

Kindly wishing to spare the blushes of some fine colleagues, I must confess that I only ever use two of these titles -- and there are another two that I probably wouldn't want to be paid to take. And here's a curious little fact about them: all six are loose-leafs, an increasingly unpopular format in the era of the internet. There is no indication as to whether anyone who buys these titles at the summer sale prices will be charged summer-sale prices for future supplements.

The closing date for purchases is 31 August 2008. You can get full details from the publisher's Summer Savings 2008 webpage here.

Monday 21 July 2008

Calling all small firms of solicitors

In the face of the stream of weekly release of information in the Law Society’s Gazette, such as this news story that some Professional Indemnity Insurers are abandoning the legal market and refusing to insure small practices, and this one about how the SRA will be requiring a lot of information from firms which small practices are going to find difficult to supply I am getting increasingly concerned that the Regulatory climate around the corner is going to make it difficult for small law practices to focus on their work. I know a number of sole practitioners who work from home, do not hold a client account, and service a few long standing clients, and rarely take on new ones. These feel unconcerned about Money Laundering and all the rest of the obligations piled on Solicitors’ practices. Even news about the heavy handedness of the SRA when inspecting law firms does not move them. If ours is a group comprised predominantly of such practices then it is unlikely that the group will share my concerns. However, for those who would like to find a better way of practising without the stress and anxiety they currently face, I would like to convene a meeting to consider possible solutions. If you are interested in attending please email me here

Wednesday 16 July 2008

Apprentice or Pupil?

As training within the IP profession gets ever more sohisticated, I have decided on a backward step and revert to the old fashioned apprentice model. ITMA are consulting the membership on a new compulsory course. I have trained in both ways. As a patent attorney I was "apprenticed" in the sense that I worked for a qualified attorney and gleaned what I could to pass the exams. The CIPA informals lectures and tutorials were helpful but not exactly a structured course of training. The success of this technique is down to the apprentice/master relationship and access to a variety of work and a willingness to put in the hours of research to find the answers. Fortunately my University
course had taught me the basics of research and even at school I had done a lot of self-teaching in science and maths. When I decided to qualify as a solicitor I did formal distance learning courses for the law "degree" part and reverted to the self-teaching for the "Finals".
In my opinion its the difference between active and passive learning. Passive taught courses seem to be the favored method today but I still think the enthusiastic apprentice can outperform his spoon-fed colleagues. If any reader would like to offer to share training opportunities or ways Solos can contrubute to the training of the next generation of IP practitioners, please comment..

Sunday 6 July 2008

Statements of Use at UK IPO

I haven’t had time to mention my trip to LA which was interesting on many counts. Unfortunately have no time to do more than touch on it in this post because am short of time. I have a new website going live later this month which is taking up loads of time, and am grappling with ordinary workload, staff absences on holiday, and the after effects of being away at INTA in May and LA in June!

Two points stood out for me from the trip as regards IP practice. One is that in the USA IP is regarded as an extremely high risk area of work, and it can be almost impossible for niche practices to get insurance apparently. What is even more surprising is that your risk profile is improved if you can do a proportion of non IP work. To my mind the risk of being negligent or would Decrease rather than Increase the more specialised you were so why the insurers see it differently baffles me. They must know better, so if anyone has thoughts on this point I would love to hear them.

The other striking point that emerged during the trip is that the majority of practitioners who have become wise to the risks of signing trade mark forms on behalf of clients now refuse to do so. They will NEVER sign a trade mark form, preferring to post it to the applicant to sign him or herself. So, I intend to adopt this practice despite the many inconveniences this will cause, including the introduction of paper into our otherwise paperless office. But what else can one do given that the UK IPO will now only allow a form to be filed online if one ticks a box stating that ‘The trade mark is being used by the applicant or with his consent, in relation to the goods or services stated, or there is a bona fide intention that it will be so used’. In fact if I had time I would take this up with the UK IPO, as it seems a retrograde step which will discourage online filing. Any thoughts on this would be most welcome.

Wednesday 2 July 2008

OHIM Website Discussion July 3rd

I hope you've visited the new calm blue OHIM website. This little image on their front page takes you to a discussion forum where they are going to answer your questions live tomorrow. It looks rather promising.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Networking or Nepotism

In an age where everyone is encouraged to network, whether at face-to-face business luncheons or online with sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, it's difficult to remember that nepotism used to be a dirty word. It seems to me that we need to distinguish between recommendations that are made by someone who is putting their own reputation at stake and those that are made to reinforce the power of the person making them. The latter are usually made at the behest of the recommendee. If I employ Alice because she is a friend of the Queen, the Queen's reputation will not suffer if Alice turns out to be a lazy employee. However,if you asked me if I knew of any good trademark attorneys in Wonderland and I recommended Alice and she turns out to be an expensive disappointment, my reputation will suffer.

Work referrers are a great resource, but it is really important not to let them down by providing a poor service to the client - even if the client doesn't know its a poor service. For those businesses who rely on recommendations, I wonder how many ask about the relationship with the recommended firm. If they do ask how do they rate the answers. I recommend this adviser because I use them myself sounds the best - unless that advisor is also paying commission for the recommendation. Of course, if you are practising as a solicitor, keeping on the right side of Rule 9 of the solicitors code of conduct probably means that work referral is a no-go area for the solo practitioner. See here if you want to keep on the rails.

I wonder how the newly formed patent and trademark regulator is going to approach this issue.