Sunday 28 June 2015

Blogging Suspension: Please help me get Twitter rights back

There are a number of topics I had hoped to blog about. These include:
  • The expansion of the Hague International Design system so that it now allows our clients to secure design protection at OHIM and in the USA and perhaps less significantly Japan
  • The changes to CIPA bye-laws which will be the subject of a webinar on July 8 from CIPA Hall. If you are a member you can book here
  • The Unified Patent Court fees consultation and what it means for more modest patent holders and the patent strategies start ups should follow as a result of their potential exclusion from the new court.
  • Progress on the introduction of a grace period for UK patent applicants by the UK-IPO
  • The delightful free speech by Judge Alex Koszinski at the 2015 Sir Hugh Laddie lecture on 24 June 2015 at UCL. Peter Groves has blogged about it here
I have not blogged about these important issues because I cannot draw attention to my blog posts any longer on Twitter. This blog is blacklisted as spam and links to it cannot be tweeted. I have reported it and this is the feedback

Thanks for your report.

In order to make Twitter more secure, we have automations in place that could impact your ability to Tweet certain links. If you’re having issues Tweeting a link, our team will review your request and take appropriate action on the reported URL. You can find more information on this topic in this help center article:

Though we cannot respond to individual reports, the information provided helps us make Twitter better for everyone.
So I hope you feel that silencing blogs is better for you. If not and you cannot tweet a link to this blog or this post. Feel free to report it to twitter  support. This is the page you need Maybe if enough of you want us to continue then Twitter will relent.

Friday 12 June 2015

Pensions Grief for Micro Employers

Happy Pensioners
I expect many large IP practices have their own pension schemes for employees these days. I have never benefited from a workplace pension with any of my previous employers, but now, as the smallest employer possible, I am required to start a pension scheme for my staff. Its a great idea in principle and the government is right to encourage pension saving.

Maybe some of you too have been notified of your staging date. Its  all the work of The PENSIONS REGULATOR. Apparently its not a scam. Just like parents who employ nannies, patent and trademark agent employers are now required to set up a scheme so that after the staging date (not before) you can write elaborate letters to all your staff - including yourself if you employ yourself, as I do, telling them all about their automatic enrolment in the glossy new firm pension scheme and how their pay cheque will be reduced.  Maybe they will all opt out,  but its a crime to presume that. A scheme must exist even if it never receives a penny.

I asked my personal pension provider. Like many in the industry it was SO not interested. Well who can blame it. The chances are no funds would flow in or very modest ones for which the charges would swamp any possible returns. This is just a fact of life. For those with only pennies to invest a piggy bank is best.

There are at present (only) 47 companies offering schemes. They are on a register here. It includes some that are closed for new business and many with restrictions.

It seems that some professions have offered their members schemes to help. Not heard anything though from The IET, the SRA, ITMA or CIPA, but perhaps I have missed it. The only one I could find offering help on the Internet was the BMA. Good to know your GP's pension is sorted!

In any event, it seems the only practicable scheme is the one run by the Government. Its called NEST not to be confused with NESTA the once government owned innovation body that may be more familiar to those in our industry.

You might think there is a little irony or at least some wasteful administrative circularity in replacing part of the state pension scheme with another state pension scheme. I do.

The reason why professional bodies were encouraged to help was that they might have the membership clout to set up communal schemes to which small members could sign up even if their staff were more likely than not to opt out, either because they are so poorly paid any reduction from their wages is untenable, or because they have independent arrangements and would in effect be paying the employer's contribution from their own pockets. Does  CIPA already run a stakeholder scheme for its own staff - can we piggy back on it?

Friday 5 June 2015

IPEC Small Claims

The Walke Talkie from somewhere else
The UK Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys ITMA held its Annual Reception for members of the Bar yesterday. It was hosted in the offices of DWF in the Walkie-Talkie - that wonderful building on 20 Fenchurch Street which has a garden in the sky. We weren't in the garden, but we did get to enjoy the stunning views of the river, through glass so no photographs you have to instruct DWF.

The event was favoured by the attendance of at least two of the District Judges who "man" the small claims track of IPEC. The guide for that court gives lots of information  and most of the profession are clear that it works pretty well for photographers who find that their work has been  misappropriated. In those cases we know (I think) that damages around the £400 - £500 mark are likely to be awarded. I was not alone in commenting that the lack of any published judgements or even less formal information on how trade mark matters were dealt with gave rise to some difficulties in advising clients  whether to choose, transfer or remain there.  While many judgments are ex tempore and don't lend themselves to reporting, there are some reserved judgments that have not made it  into the public gaze because a policy decision has been made that they should not be published on BAILII. This is unfortunate because it keeps us in the dark.

One of my concerns is that with a £10,000 limit on damages  and with no intention of conducting the same type of inquiry that is conducted in the multi-track or High Court, it might be easy to assume that damages reach that limit and order it automatically. Nice for claimants, but less than satisfactory for impecunious defendants,  for whom that sum  may be unattainable.

It seems that many judgements in the small claims track are by default, which in itself is unsatisfactory and suggests that defendants are not finding access to affordable advice.  Even if you have infringed intellectual property, it is still worthwhile admitting or defending and attending to ensure that your case is dealt with fairly. So far ITMA has not been successful in setting up a pro bono scheme and intellectual property defendants are not finding much assistance elsewhere. Often the difficulty is that it's not a case of not being able to afford legal advice, it's not being able to find legal advice that is affordable.

It was great to meet the small claims track judges and hear a little about how they operate. This in itself gives me much more confidence than I had before. With the multi-track so busy, it is good to know that there is capacity on the small claims track for things to come on early. They even promise to read their emails, even if due to the universal lack of support staff that seems to handicap our  increasingly expensive court system,  its less likely that the phones will be answered.  Some difficulties seem to arise when claims are issued, which is in the Rolls Building, as it is necessary to get a small claims track number for the case to go straight to their administration.

Hopefully some  small claims track trademark decisions might find the light of day somewhere. These are public documents.  It seems odd that we should have to consider freedom of information requests in order to find out how justice is delivered. This information should be readily available to those who need recourse to intellectual property justice.  Maybe this is something that the IPO can help us with. After all, every trade mark opposition  decision is published, even though they are also non-precedental.