Tuesday 24 June 2014

Nobody is Friends with their Regulator

There is a disease known as consultation exhaustion. Yes we want to be consulted but no we don't want to spend our lives responding to consultations. Representative bodies like the Law Society and CIPA suffer greatly from it. I don't know the cure, but I can describe the symptoms.
Inbred Opposition (light touch?)

One particular symptom that worries me is Antagonism. The regulator proposes, and the regulated oppose. When the regulated are lawyers (for the purposes of this blog we are not talking about the European definition of lawyers but the English one which includes patent agents and registered trademark agents) they can readily dream up some grounds of opposition.

Take for example the opposition of the Law Society to the abolition of CPD  discussed here and now we have another bunch of oppositions  the Law Society has set out to the latest set of SRA consultations on what one would think was desirable deregulation.

The SRA suggested reducing minimum Professional indemnity insurance cover to £500,000. The Law Society opposes. IPReg does not have a minimum but except for litigators but suggests a £1 million. So patent agents have always had to think about what was an appropriate level of cover and I am sure that solicitors do too. As a solo practitioner, I have always included in my terms of trade a limitation of liability and I am afraid I hope to rely on it. Generally its to £1million and I haven't had any complaints. I received some terms from another firm today who were seeking to limit their liability to £5 million. So they can obviously afford bigger premiums than me. Perhaps they need them, the terms should have been sent to their client not me.  The Law Society is concerned that mortgage lenders will object to limitations of liability. Wouldn't it be better of the Law Society spent their time managing the expectations of such prospective clients than opposing the regulator.

For other matters your friendly Law Society opposes see here. In fact that doesn't seem anything that the SRA can do right, but there are a lot of closed consultations undergoing analysis.

In the current political environment, regulation is designed to protect consumers and business clients are expected to look after themselves. This has the desirable effect of meaning that for those of us who mainly deal with the business world, regulation can go back into the lightest touch box that we were used to.

Meanwhile, it would be nice if regulators and representative bodies could develop a slightly better relationship and just occasionally find some areas of agreement.


  1. The fee income of IPREG from the UK IP profession now stands in excess of £2 million. That is £2 milliion of higher bills for the customers of the IP profession. In the years that IPREG has existed, it has, to my admittedly limited knowledge, considered one serious complaint.
    I am amazed that the IP profession does not rebel against the red tape and regulation imposed on it by IPREG.

  2. There is no obligation on members of the IP profession who do not litigate - the vast majority - and are prepared to avoid drafting deeds, to be regulated by IPREG. For them it is purely voluntary. Feel free to rebel

  3. The rebellion is held back by the fear of losing privilege for letters exchanged with clients during prosecution if one renounces one's chartered patent attorney status by foregoing regulation by IPREG.

  4. discuss that at the CIPA webinar on privilege but I think you may only need registration for that if it matters to you. If Chartered status is dependent on regulation then that is CIPA who are burdening you not the Legal Services Board

  5. Only the regulated can call themselves a UK patent attorney. You may find IPREG happy with your £1million insurance level, but you won't find them happy if you reduce that figure. They will judge you to have insufficient cover when it suits. Of course, if you are never going to be negligent you don't need any cover at all. And what is PAMIAs current position on insuring non-UK patent attorneys?