This Kat was a little surprised to receive before Christmas a missive from IPReg outlining proposals for a change in the examination system to become a UK patent attorney. He had not been aware of any sentiment that the current system was anything less than satisfactory and so a proposal for radical reform was unexpected.
He was even more surprised to receive hot on its tail an email from the President of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys expressing precisely the disquiet felt by this Kat, right down to the same phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" being deployed as had leapt into his mind. Perhaps naively he expected that the support from CIPA Council would have been sought before consulting the entire CIPA membership.
|The IPKat considers the|
Recipients of the CIPA Journal will see both missives published in the December edition that should just have hit your desks.
In summary the proposals upon which IPReg is consulting are:
1) To abolish the "Foundation" exam papers (the first level examinations that are typically taken about a year after beginning in the profession) in favour of accredited courses such as the Queen Mary Certificate in Intellectual Property Law that currently already grant exemption from the Foundation papers. (This Kat only specifically mentions QM as it is the one with which he is most familiar having taken the course himself back in the last millennium, but Bournemouth and Brunel also offer such courses).
2) In the final papers, abolish P3 (patent drafting) and P4 (patent amendment) in favour of the equivalent papers from the European Qualifying Exam (EQE) that currently already grant exemption from the corresponding UK papers.
Coincidentally the same edition of the CIPA Journal publishes a letter from Tony Luckhurst disagreeing with the beloved CIPA editor Tibor Gold on a not entirely unrelated idea, floated in the November Journal, to ditch the amendment paper (P4) from the finals papers as being redundant in terms of skills tested.
The opinions of a fictional feline in this regard hardly matter but to get the ball rolling this Kat has some comments.
1) as an expansion of the "if it ain't broke..." point, the UK exams are, this Kat is informed, relied on as a qualification in the Republic of Ireland and Singapore, and the impact on those professions does not seem yet to have been considered.
2) the first proposal is to abolish the foundation level exams and achieve the foundation level qualification exclusively via academic taught courses (or courses offered by commercial providers, explicitly mentioned as an option in the consultation document). This Kat may be old fashioned but he does detect a feeling that the university based courses although excellent are regarded by some as too theoretical. The foundation exams act as a standard against which those can be assessed. Moreover, while the academic exams are undoubtedly challenging, they are hardly discriminating as practically everyone passes.
3) perhaps surprisingly given the relatively low number of candidates for some papers there does not seem to be a shortage of volunteers from within the patent attorney profession to set and mark the papers. On the other hand once a paper is abolished it is likely to be very difficult to reestablish it.
4) the European drafting and amendment exams can only be sat by people who satisfy eligibility requirements including residence and nationality which do not exist in the UK, and so some people who are currently able to take and pass UK exams will not be eligible to enter the corresponding EQE paper.
5) IPReg has absolutely no mechanism to interact with the EQE process and so if the European drafting and amendment papers become inadequate (or even are abolished in some shake-up of the European process) then there is nothing that IPReg can do about it. And, as mentioned in 3), they will likely then be difficult to re-establish.
6) This Kat sees in the consultation document little consideration of what the profession requires from the examination system and how better to meet such requirements. This seems to be the conversation that is worth having and perhaps responses to the consultation can express views on what is required.
7) The consultation document contains the argument that the Swiss national patent attorney qualification system has adopted the approach of foregoing the setting of national drafting and amendment examinations but making the passing of the corresponding European papers an obligatory part of qualification as a Swiss patent attorney. This Kat can see no merit in this appeal to Swiss practice.
So dear readers, there are some thoughts for consideration. Over now to you...