Thursday 21 June 2012

Complaints: a matter of give and take

The various branches of the intellectual property professions, at any rate in jurisdictions where legal services are highly regulated and/or highly competitive, on account of there being too many IP professionals in relation to the amount of available work, are very sensitive to their image: are they trusted, are they respected, are they believed by current and prospective clients to be discharging their functions in a satisfactory manner?  The prospect of being reported to one's regulatory body in consequence of having slipped up or -- probably a good more often -- of having been thought to have slipped up, is a miserable one. For small and sole practitioners the discomfort is compounded by the fact that one is exposed and has nowhere to hide.  The small cog in a big wheel can hide behind the image of a large, faceless firm, while the small practitioner may be synonymous with it.

The situation is not much more comfortable when the small or sole practitioner is making a complaint, rather than receiving it.  Compliance with complaints procedures can be tiresomely repetitive, bureaucratic and time-consuming, even if this is for the laudable purposes of ensuring transparency in dealing with it and in seeking to establish whether the complaint is justified.  Where this is the case, and particularly where -- even where the complaint is justified -- no obvious damage can be attributed to the client, it is quite probable that a complaint will simply be left to fester in the mind of its real victim, the frustrated and inconvenienced practitioner.

The European Patent Office is highly conscious of the need to have a quality complaints procedure, and discussion within the profession has led to this week's sidebar poll on the IPKat weblog here.  If you have something to say about the EPO's complaints procedure, you will probably find the poll a little too short and simple -- but its organisers would like to hear from you anyway, whether you feel that the EPO is handling your complaints well or not.  The closing date for responses is this Sunday evening, 24 June, so don't miss the chance!

Saturday 16 June 2012

Let's all be Alternative

The UK Patent and Trademark Attorney's Regulator, IPREG has issued a Consultation on their proposal to apply for ABS licensing status. Being a small regulator and trying to keep things as simple as possible they have come up with the ingenious idea that every entity should be treated the same way, ABS or not.
Every Entity will need a Head of Legal and a Head of Finance and Administration. If they follow the Law Society interpretation of the equivalent SRA provisions these can be the same person, which is essential for the true SOLO.
Two heads are better than one from Paul Mannix
IPReg is also proposing to set up a Compensation Fund (required for ABS licensors). It would be hard to do this if only true ABS were required to fund it so I assume this was a big motivator for the single solution. This funding issue seems to be a problem for the Solicitors Regulation Authority too and they are consulting about it as well.
If you are already regulated by IPReg you should have received the papers directly by email on Friday. We are supposed to respond by 17 September.
Will these proposals encourage you to consider re-joining a partnership or getting into a larger association to ease the regulatory burden?
Will they make trademark only, non-litigation practices opt out of regulation altogether. I want to litigate so accept that there has to be regulation, but if you look in the Journal at the names of agents on UK trademark applications it seems that Google Ad-words are more influential on the market than indications of regulation.