The IPKat has been hearing some dark rumours with regard to that little patch of the planet which is occupied by the body that purports to regulate the professional conduct of British patent and trade mark attorneys -- The Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg). A little bird has let it be known that yesterday, while all good British souls were either worrying how to vote in today's General Election or grumbling about the unseasonal cold, the Council of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) was handed a document, produced by IPReg. This document, if the IPKat's little bird is to be believed, was intended to be approved without scrutiny at the meeting which proposed several interesting things. Thus
* IPReg would set its own salaries (not that there is any element of self-interest involved, of course, and not that there might be any legal issues to address);
* IPReg would be able to dispose of practice fees at its own discretion (rather than collect them for CIPA and the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys, ITMA, having been allocated a fixed budget, as provided for in the Delegation Document and statutory provisions);
* A further remunerated new executive member would be appointed by IPReg;
* CIPA and ITMA would be excluded from oversight of IPReg board meetings, contrary to the Delegation Document.If these proposals, apparently buried in the document, were passed, IPReg might find itself in the enviable position of being able to levy whatever tax it liked on the provision of its services and pay a banker's salary for the public-facing role of key personnel. IPReg might also -- though it is believed to have no plans whatsoever to do so -- conduct monthly additionally remunerated meetings of its conduct committee, to do nothing other than review its own conduct.
IPReg has, at present, no fewer than 9 paid board members, a paid chairman (here) and a paid chief executive . There are fears that this body plans to recruit additional resources in the event it ever has a complaint to deal with. The IPKat, who is always happy to be put right if he's wrong, understands that IPReg is only competent to deal with a relatively small proportion of any complaints it might receive as the overwhelming majority will need to be handled by the Legal Services Board. Before IPReg was born, CIPA handled this function with a mere fraction of a person and, the story goes, had no complaints about its effectiveness.
Says the IPKat, if responsible and respectable members of the patent attorney and trade mark attorney are expressing their disquiet about the manner in which they are to be regulated, and if IPReg has become a genie that has escaped the lantern of CIPA/ITMA oversight, we should at least be alerted to the nature of the problems in question so that they can be addressed. If these rumours, and the substance that lies behind them, can be truthfully denied, no-one has anything to worry about. If however there is some substance to them, can they at least be addressed in a fair, reasonable, cost-appropriate and client-friendly manner?