Sunday 29 April 2012

Improving Access to IP Advice

One of the more contentious aspects of Hargreaves was the criticism of patent agent's ability to provide the IP Advice service that SMEs require. In early April the IPO published a discussion paper called From Ideas to Growth: Helping SMEs get value from their intellectual property and the accompanying page now announces some round table discussions in London on 8 May and 22 June and in Newport on 16 May. Chapter 2 of the booklet deals with ideas to get IP advice to SMEs at lower cost.
Lovable low cost Advice or a Home Office from CitrixOnline
Let's face it this is not going to be an easy discussion in which to get the mainstream patent profession to participate. The report was a direct attack on the existing profession. We are not providing the required service at the right price or at all. The initial response to these new proposals is likely to be defensive rather than  constructive.
IP advice is not regulated, nor is patent drafting. Only qualified people can call themselves patent agents, so there is plenty of scope for advisers to enter the market if they choose to. Many have, so the first proposal the IPO have put forward is to publish an online directory that provides names and qualifications so businesses can pick and choose what they think they need. That seems to be about the extent of the proposed involvement of the private sector.
The next section deals with getting advice into public sector programmes which seems to be more awareness related and something the IPO itself will take on.
There is a short section on the Technology Strategy Board's Catapult Centres. They sound interesting places and it would be very interesting were they to contain some patent resources. Are there any jobs or even office space going in these organisations? Some SOLO members might find it fun to be based in one.
The PatLib Library Network gets a welcome boost and maybe some much needed resources.  See its blog which highlights some of its members activities. Note that business can have a free one hour consultation with a patent agent if they are prepared to wait up to 6 weeks.
Local Enterprise Partnerships may have a role.
An Independent IP Advisory service is then proposed which suggests what many SMEs want is patent advice on a subsidised basis. The ides is that this might be associated with or linked to the Manufacturing Advisory Service

So far I don't see any proposal for a Business Masterclass for patent agents to make them more commercially aware of how IP really develops within a business. Only occasionally do patent agents get full feedback on the impact of IP on the long term business cycle and never if they work in firms who major on the profitable agency work, so access to real business school training might be welcome.

The effort needs to go to support those businesses prepared to accept some level of risk, who aim to develop businesses on a decent scale and can attract and manage significant levels of investment. Those are perhaps businesses likely to apply for TSB grants, rather than those who walk into a library. It is to be hoped that this project really helps to boost the benefits of working with competent IP advisers. Perhaps I will see you at the IPO's new Westminster office on the afternoon of Friday, 22 June to toss these ideas around a bit more. Question is how do you reserve a place?

Thursday 26 April 2012

Happy World IP Day

26 April is World IP Day.   Let's celebrate this momentous day when all should be pondering the great contribution that Intellectual Property makes to our society and civilisation. At the same time let's remember:
You can't own Information

Information or knowledge was made to be shared. It is a basic building block of civilisation and when we don't share and teach, knowledge and wisdom is lost and has to be rediscovered. The misunderstanding that you can own it leads to all sorts of trouble.
It leads to to wasteful treaties on traditional knowledge when all that is necessay is to give originators proper credit;
It leads to confusion as illustrated by this CNet story when Google Drive say they need a licence to copy your data for storage, which they do but it can and should be very limited indeed;
It leads to Force India believing it "owned" far more than it had kept secret and a court hearing before Mr Justice Arnold over 14 days and a 122 page judgement on 21 March 2012 very concisely summarised for commercial purposes here by Wragges;
It leads to the idea that just by paying a lawyer to spend time on patent searches you can avoid patent disputes;
It leads to the UK IPO failing to understand why many design based businesses get on with life and dont feel the need to protect their design work but allow it to be shared;
It leads to Twiter creating an Innovator's Patent Agreement so that it can obtain business method patents that it will not enforce

Countries including the UK do create Intellectual Property Rights that are usually limited in time and always in scope that allow their holders to control certain information. The idea is usually to facilitate investment and the wider disseminatation and use of the Information. If you use IP I do hope that its for the greater good of society and that you have a happy World IP Day.

Sunday 15 April 2012

The OHIM Annual Report: talking statistics

For Trademark Representatives whose business is based on efficient dealing with OHIM, the Annual report has not generally been regarded as essential reading. However it may well help you to be a more informed representative in terms of managing client expectations. This year (for 2011) it comes in an audiovisual format and a print format. The words come in any of the five languages but I can only hear the interviews in English.

Some of us may have suspected that OHIM is raising the bar on absolute grounds now that it is an established player in most brand owner's trademark portfolios. There have been more appeals 65% more compared to two years ago according to the Paul Maier interview, but we don't know if these are absolute grounds or oppositions. The decisions of the office on absolute grounds that comply with OHIM quality standards are now said to be at 100% suggesting the bar is exactly where they want it, but is it where we want it? is it where the consumer needs it? If we rely on the data provided in the database of refused trademarks this shows that in 2009 there were 1884 refusal letters, 1794 in 2010 but 2659 in 2011, so its possible I have a point.  Nevertheless the trademarks, like the times are a-changing. Class 16 has dropped out of the top 5 classes and class 9 now head the show according to the interview with Director of Operations Juan Ramón Rubio. Does this new online oriented word use more descriptive signs as trademarks?

We also hear a lot about the strategic plan but in terms of impact on representatives we are still looking, though I sense that it has had a lot of internal effect. I shall be looking forward to some technological changes soon and do hope these will include an e-filable MM2, as well as finding out if eSearch Plus will ever come out of Beta. For those of us making our way to Washington for the INTA annual meeting Booth 323 should be worth a visit