Tuesday 28 April 2009

Manging the Unexpected Costs

The Credit Crunch has an impact on the incoming invoices. I and other SOLO members have noticed an increase in unsolicited ones or larger ones. No, I don't mean those scams our clients get suggesting they should pay extra "registration" fees.
The ones that worry me are from associates. One letter begins "In the absence of your instructions to the contrary, we have reviewed the file ... and here is an invoice" It was small and I paid it.
Another problem is invoices for reporting office actions on long dormant cases. These can be awkward to pass on, but they pose a dilemma. What do I do with a Japanese office action with no invoice but no information either that would help make any decision. On the other hand a thousand dollars for a detailed report on a US trademark action creates a serious case of Bill Shock.
One method is to put in your terms of trade with associates that you cannot be billed without a budget for the work having been agreed in advance. I have accepted that restraint from one of my clients. They are smart. It does share the risk. I have to make a decision when I get an office action. I need to review the matter to create a budget. If it looks hard then the budget might be bigger than if the work had been done on the standard hourly rate but then again it might not. Even after all my years, getting a budget to match actual costs is a cause for celebration.
Another top tip is to avoid asking anything in the nature of an open ended question without a reservation that if the costs will exceed a specified amount please get clearance in advance.
Work creators will always rise up when work falls away. How do you ensure that you and your clients don't suffer?

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Fordham in Cambridge

I was delighted to meet Robert Hurst as another SOLO practitioner taking advantage of the opportunity for serious CPD in Cambridge. Nothing could have prepared me for Professor Hugh Hansen's unique style of presentation. It is traditional for business plan competitions to time out loquacious presenters but I have not seen the same technology employed in a professional conference environment against such eminent speakers. All took it in good part.
The morning was devoted to policy issues. We started global and by lunchtime it seemed more relevant to the real world. Copyright issues dominated the politics but we did learn that there was to be a review of the CTM system by the commission and they were going to look at the relationship with national offices (now likely to be redundant after the fee reductions) and whether it was sustainable to have a CTM validly maintained by use only in Malta or Lithuania. The Community patent is to get one last hard push. Margot Frohlinger of DG Internal Market was hopeful that some sop could be found to trade with those resistant to the proposed no-translations and no-validaton needed proposal. Something like the tomato quotas for which the Portuguese had traded use of their national language at OHIM. The proposed patent court may have a better chance of seeing the light of day, with the ECJ having a very limited role to answer questions strictly limited to European law.
After coffee we had the insights of the judiciary. Lord Hoffman will not be a judge by next Tuesday and he was in relaxed mode. The CFI was not represented and came in for a lot of criticism. William Robinson of Freshfields defended but all those trademark opposition appeal decisions seemed to satsify nobody. Apparently national courts have difficulty understanding the ECJ opinions too. This leaves them scope for interpretation and they don't therefore have to disagree. Such is the diplomacy of judges. The Honorable Randall Rader appointed the whole audience federal circuit judges and showed us that it was impossible not to consider policy in any decision. He said that a judge could not be blind to policy issues but you must be aware of your limitations as you dive into those incredibly deep waters.
At lunch I discussed blogging with some Fordham students who were running the time machines.
The afternoon saw me joing the trademark and design stream, but my Internet is about to dry up so no more for now.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

IP and recruitment consultants

I was chatting to a legal recruitment consultant (head-hunter?) this morning, who surprised me by telling me that his work brought him into contact with firms of all sizes and not just mega-firms. He -- like many others in the field, I suspect -- has noticed that intellectual property still has more movement in it than most other fields of practice. Do readers of this blog, as sole/small practitioners, have any recent good/bad experiences of dealing with recruitment consultants, either when looking for a suitable appointee or when trying to place themselves with another practice?

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Website contact information

Whether you want to include just the bare minimum information that the law requires you to display on your website, or appreciate that more extensive information will increase trust in your site, a useful starting point is to know what the law requires. Organisations need to comply with a number of legislative provisions at both UK and EU level. They will need to consider the E Commerce regulations, the Business Names Act 1985, companies will need to comply with the Companies Acts 1985 and 2006 as well as VAT legislation on displaying VAT numbers on certain documents. If you are interested in reading more, I have written a full post on this issue on the Azright IP Brands blog.

Twitter and the small IP community

Having been a user of Twitter for nearly a month, I'm fast coming to the opinion that, if used with self-discipline and common sense, it can be an extremely versatile current intelligence/networking/marketing tool. For my own part, I've learned of new cases and legal developments, found a peer reviewer for an obscure article on IP insurance and the environment, picked up some fresh perspectives on subjects I thought I knew lots about, picked a couple of fights with strangers and ended up with two new friends, unearthed some unfamiliar terminology and discovered the identity of the anonymous iplab. The mandatory requirement to keep messages within the 140 character straitjacket also acts wonderfully as a way of concentrating one's mind on the need to write only that which is essential.

I know that some members of SOLO IP, as well as quite a lot of solo/small intellectual property practitioners who are not part of the SOLO IP crowd, use Twitter and wonder whether, through the more expansive and less immediate medium of this weblog they might like to say anything about their experiences, possibly offering advice for the neophyte.