Tuesday 30 April 2013

Better than being a penguin? Solos flock to INTA

Fact: the coat of the adult penguin has
nowhere to store one's business cards
A recent tweet from Twitter diva and SOLO IP Blog founder Barbara Cookson reveals that next month's International Trademark Association (INTA) Meeting -- now seemingly rebranded #inta13 -- has already attracted 166 solo IP practitioner registrants. As well as offering wonderful opportunities for networking with people who aren't going to ask embarrassing questions about how big your litigation and dispute resolution team is, this poses challenges the most important of which is how the 166 (the number may have risen by now) are going to find one another.  In this context readers may wish to ponder on the following random observations:
* Many solo and small-firm practitioners look just like people who practise with large firms. Indeed, last year some of them may indeed have been practising with large firms and have not yet ditched last year's Armani suits and Louboutin heels in favour of the altogether humbler attire of the one-man/woman band. 
* There is no equivalent of the Masonic handshake that enables those who work in small practitioners to identify one other.  Perhaps an app should be developed in time for #inta14 which will enable the hand-held mobile device of a soloist to give off a discreet buzz when another soloist is within a 10 metre radius. 
* Speed-dating has been kindly organised for small practitioners, gregarious folk and the merely curious to meet briefly, exchange cards, make eye contact and then terminate the relationship without any sense of awkwardness within the rules of engagement.  This facility has proved popular -- but is its popularity based more on the fact that it enables people to meet, or to save time? 
* Penguins have demonstrated to generations of wildlife photographers that they have a remarkable knack of finding each other in even the largest of crowds, notwithstanding the fact that they all look pretty much the same. This may be something to do with the fact that their survival depends on it. It would be good to know if IP solo practitioners fare as well in Dallas this year.  
If you do, or don't, have success in locating your own kind, do write to us at SOLO IP and let us know your experiences.  You may not have found them interesting or valuable, but there's a good chance that you'll strike a chord or two with our readership.

Sunday 28 April 2013

Likelihood of Confucius? How about merging with a Chinese mega-firm

A recent report in The Lawyer relates the story of a small Israeli commercial and high-tech law firm, Eyal Khayat, Zolty, Neiger & Co. -- a three-partner practice which has suddenly acquired the ability to cast a giant shadow through its merger with Chinese giant Yingke. The Beijing-based firm has offices in more than twenty cities on its home turf and another 16 outside China. Altogether it employs more than 2,000 lawyers.  Yingke now has an office in Israel too, in Hertzlia Pituach, within easy reach of so much of the country's high-tech industry.

This blogger was initially fascinated about the 12-month negotiation period which culminated in the merger. After all, a whole year might seem a long time for what has been described as a "brand merger without full financial integration". What lay at the heart of discussions? Was it the decision as to whether the firm should function in Chinese or in Hebrew? Or the struggle to convey the right message through the trilingual logo with its somewhat allusive symbol?  No matter, the deal was struck.

It then occurred to this blogger that many a small IP practice might want to consider emulating Eyal Khayat, Zolty, Neiger & Co. by finding a massive Chinese firm with which to partner. In the olden days, IP work generally went in one direction, but now China is filing patents, designs, utility models and trade marks outside its home jurisdiction quicker than you can say "Confucius!" and the prospect of having a small foothold in a small non-Chinese country (and that's pretty well everywhere) might be well sold to an amenable Chinese giant.  No more worries about where the next instruction is coming from, either ....

Sunday 21 April 2013

Consultation Marathon

Since the announcement of the Fast Trade mark Opposition consultation from the UK IPO discussed below, we have the Patent side of the Office starting a consultation on even faster patent prosecution. It must be because they were coming up to today's blessedly peaceful and sunny Virgin London Marathon.
London 21 April 2013
The Law Commission also finally publishing their consultation on groundless threats.  This last weighs in at 174 pages so most of us will simply have to rely on the executive summary. I like the prospect that legal advisers will be exempt. The idea we might get an unfair competition tort is interesting too. Possibly not an idea to hide in something as abstruse as a groundless threats consultation though.
Weighing in with a threat of a threats action is often a rather unethical practice. The last letter I received gave me a short time to respond so I did not as it was mostly groundless as we were discussing a service mark.
The super-fast patent paper is reasonably short and hopefully CIPA will be on to it. By the way, this is not for the small inventor or SME - a marathon fee of £3500-£4000 is proposed but you don't have to give reasons for paying it. There do not seem to be many situations where the normal expedited prosecution is inadequate, but if this procedure becomes available there does not seem much incentive for the IPO to do it for free when they could have a fat fee and a few extra home comforts in Newport.