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Friday, 21 September 2012

"Young, wild & free"? Student-(un)friendly fees at IP/IT conferences

Fancy fascinators are sometimes compulsory
for those registering at the student fee
Whilst reviewing her winter wardrobe, ever-vigilant and forever-young Merpel asked herself the following question: can a Gucci handbag be cheaper than the student registration fee for an IP/IT conference? Sadly, the answer is ‘yes’.
Being a real fashionista, but also a full-time student, Merpel has always thought that she could not yet afford to buy a Boston Bag.
Now, she is a bit upset that she cannot afford to go to conferences either, being these more expensive that the said Boston Bag. 
Although she is lucky that her academic institution grants her a yearly funding to attend learned events, the overall amount is not sufficient to cover a conference student registration fee fixed at EUR 650. Although she is not going to tell what conference she is referring to, Merpel has observed that such student-“friendly” fees are common to many events in the field of IP/IT.
As there are not many students carrying a designer handbag, she suspects that there are not many students actually attending these conferences either, and not because they would not be interested in doing so. OK, organising these events is expensive, but since there are already many corporate sponsors and attendees, wouldn’t it be possible to allow actual participation of students and young practitioners who may have to actually pay the registration fees themselves?
This does not mean that student attendance should be necessarily ‘free’ (as ‘free beer’), but at least that the choice to register or not should be free (as ‘free speech’) and dependent upon the professional/academic interests of the potential attendees, not denied ex ante because of registration fees most students/young practitioners could not afford to pay.
What is the bright side in this story? Well, now designer clothing and accessories look reasonably priced in comparison to such student registration fees ... 

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

couldn‘t agree more!!!

Colm said...

It's often worth investigating whether you can volunteer to help with the conference. You'll obviously have to spend time working but will usually get opportunities to see particular sessions you're interested in. And you can often get better opportunities to make connections to people than you would as an attendee.

Anonymous said...

It isn't much consolation, but €650 is too expensive for big corporations too. It becomes quite difficult to explain to organisers that we don't have unlimited budgets and have to account for our expenditure. Let's as a profession do more to support free informal events like those organised by IPKat and law firms.

Richard V, Nokia

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree, more generally organisers must realise that not all companies have large IP 'departments' with budgets for IP events. Some smaller companies with 'IP teams' still unfortunately view IP as a tolearble cost of doing business rather than the core of the business, as such availability of funding for such events is often non-existent. Having more affordable and also more informal events (such as the Kats are so diligent in providing) are surely also vital imho in the process of altering the aforementioned perception that still exists in some companies with respect to the value of IP.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Richard V. The conference organisers, although providing a service that one can choose to pay for or indeed not pay for, merely aggregate the desires of experienced yet publicity-hungry lawyers to come and talk about what they love talking about, book a room in a middling London hotel, and pick up a hefty slice of pure profit.

(Quite often the organisers are not very well informed about the conferences that they organise, and this is often reflected in the duplication and overlap in the programmes).

As an alternative, law firms put on similar types of shows, but it is usually done merely for the firm's own clients and potential clients.

The model which I believe is the way forward is that which has been exemplified by the SPC Blog, in which law firms come along and give quality talks in a seminar at neutral venue. The range of opinions discussed in such fora is often much better than the one-firm seminar.

Ok, Olswang gets the publicity by having put on the show in the first place, but fair play to them for setting up the Blog and kicking off the seminars.

The likes of AIPPI, IBIL, EPLA, IPLA, TIPLO merely scratch the surface of the potential that there is here. Both private practice law firm, patent firms and industry could do a lot more here to break the stranglehold of the rubber-chicken-circuit-conference-firms.

Anonymous said...

....and unlike Gucci bags, you can't get the look of an IP seminar attendee by partaking in a counterfeit

Maxine Horn said...

In Mexico one year we were presenting at a conference that charged companies but enabled students to attend for free.

Result was that 1000 students turned up by the Coach load! Caused choas and we ran out of custard creams within 30 minutes flat.

However, I agree conference fees are expensive not only for students but also small cos and individual practioners.

In this digital age conference organisers can set-up web casts to be accessed for a much smaller fee. Or film each conference presenter and release as video links which the University could purchase for a fixed fee and run for students in a lecture theatre.






Anonymous said...

I come from a developing country and have been an invited speaker to at least half a dozen of these commercial format conferences, as a speaker on developing country' IP laws.

My observations:
a) The entire profit is kept by the Conference organising company;
b) No honorarium is given to speakers - except for partial / substantial reimbursement for expenses of travel etc.
c) Almost zero discount for students - I have seen discounts of 10/ 20 % using discount codes, but nothing that could enable a student to attend.
d) As rightly noted by one of the earlier commentors, the cost of travel + conference fee + expenses is so high that even middling companies cannot afford to send people to such conferences.
e) Also - completely agree on conference organiser's having very little clue on the nuances of the conference topic.

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