Thursday 1 August 2013

On Examinations, Boards, Independence and Diversity

I have been reading the exchange between CIPA and IPReg over the creation of the new patent examination board (PEB)  for 2014 onwards. Now that ITMA have made other arrangements for the qualification of new trade mark agents in the UK,  the JEB or Joint Examination Board is due to die. Some who have been unhappy with its results may rejoice.

If you are a CIPA member you can find the exchange in the latest CIPA journal at Page 359. The whole sequence is provided by IPreg for all here.  I read it as acrimonious and critical. Its not a correspondence I would find encouraging as a prospective new entrant to the profession. Since there is nothing there for 2014, candidates who fail to qualify as UK patent agents this year might be concerned. Most will be focusing the European Qualifying Examination administered *independently* of the Institute of Professional representatives before the European Patent Office (epi )by the EPO. The names and faces of the lay members of the European structure are not immediately obvious to me.

I was also sent yesterday a link to the Draft 2014 Business Plan of IPreg and the Annual report 2012 which is a nicely laid out document with the previous 2012/3 Business Plan  at the end of it and a separate Education Plan.  The Draft plan does not refer to education at all and the budget seems overwhelmed by the possibility of another disciplinary hearing. Now CIPA have appointed an education officer but we apparently need a Chairman of an Independent PEB to write letters to IPreg and the PEB needs to have lay members who have control so no more will senior partners be able to appoint their sons and daughters and train them to follow in their footsteps. Patent Agency is to be lay-controlled. I am not sure what laity is likely to be interested. Are they educationalists who profit, Patent Office officials who suffer from patent agents, inventors who pay them, infringers who pay them for justice, the public who want drugs and mobile phones on the cheap and might prefer there were no patent agents or patents at all, politicians or diplomats. Who should have this job and how can they set an exam if they are laity?  I clearly don't understand the system at all.

Nevertheless as a solo practitioner it might be fun to take on a trainee. Today that is impossible, because you would be expected to pay for their professional development but you know their long term career is not with you. Any trainee here would have an interesting year or so that would benefit them and their next employer. There is not a great incentive to employ them to send them off on expensive out of office PEB/IPreg prescribed courses. So this avenue into the profession that might allow some diversity is closed at present while we squabble about which notepaper to write letters on. Thank Heaven for the gloriously efficient European Patent Academy. It is not independent but it is getting on with the job and its prices are affordable its just a shame that European Patents are not affordable for many of our clients.

Would you employ a trainee today?

Who should or does chair the PEB?

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