Brandstock - a reader writes; The Idea of Authorship

On Friday the IPKat wondered whether Brandstock, offering a free IP professional fee information service, wasn't a bit too good to be true. Well, now he's a little bit wiser thanks to Georgy Evans (Georgy is Head of Trade Marks at Shell but her comments here are all her own). Says Georgy:

"While it is quite understandable to be suspicious of a 'something for nothing' offer in the world of lawyers (and perhaps necessary to balance a cat's natural curiosity), it is indeed quite true that [Brandstock's] standard service is offered for nothing and is very effective. At Shell we subscribe to one of the customised versions so that negotiated prices with the Shell external attorneys are shown on a version of the IPCC [IP Cost-Calculator] available only to Shell.

Above right: Big clients are sometimes seen by their clients as cash cows -- and may be taken for a ride when it comes to fees

The advantages to brand owners are pretty obvious: a quick and easy reference point for prices so we can quote to our clients how much a filing or search programme will cost, transparency of costs from our external attorneys (and I think Brandstock have been part of the progress towards greater transparency), and an ability to compare prices. For example, for services that, perhaps unfairly, I refer to as 'money for old rope', such as change of name, assignments and renewals in which the quality and style of the work is pretty uniform across all firms, it is possible to save huge amounts of money by using the cheapest attorneys. Across all countries, an annual trade mark renewals bill might be cut by 30%. The other thing you can check is how much official fees really are: it has not been unknown in the past for an unscrupulous firm (who do no service to the vast, vast majority who are scrupulously honest and splendid) either not to reveal what official fees are, compared with its professional fee, or even - I'm afraid - misstate the division between the two. Official fees are checked with national offices by Brandstock.

Brandstock uses the IPCC as a starting point for pricing assignment or change of name programmes that it carries out for brand owners, operating a tender system using the attorneys listed in the IPCC. The savings here are even more remarkable for the brand owner.

Of course, some attorney firms have been less enthusiastic about the IPCC, but it seems now generally to have been accepted. Brand owners may have wielded the stick a bit to get their attorneys to upload their fees, at least for their client's eyes if not for the whole world.

In any event, Brandstock has done a great service for brand owners. All in all, it provides an innovative and flexible IP service in a number of areas, not just with the IPCC".

The IPKat is grateful for this. While most IP practitioners are pretty honourable, and operate in a highly competitive environment in which even large clients show signs of cost-sensitivity, there are some who view large and wealthy commercial clients as a soft touch - which is surely wrong. Merpel says, I wonder how many firms will agree with the depiction of elements of their work as "money for old rope" - or would they see this as income that subsidises some of their more complex and demanding work? I think we should be told ...

Left: prudent cats prefer to saving their money to spending it on their pet IP attorneys (moneybox by Woodentoys UK)

Shell money here and here

The Idea of Authorship in Copyright is a new book by the IPKat's friend Lior Zemer. Lior, who is currently affiliated to the Interdisciplinary Centre, Radzyner School of Law, Herzlia (Israel) and Boston University, School of Law, USA, was formerly an academic in England, where he taught at the University of Leicester.

What the publisher says:
"As information flows become increasingly ubiquitous in our post digital environment, the challenges to traditional concepts of intellectual property and the practices deriving from them are immense. The romantic understanding of the lone author as an endless source of new creations has to face these challenges. In order to do so, this work presents a collectivist model of intellectual property rights. The core argument is that since copyright works enjoy profit from significant public contribution, they should not be privately owned, but considered to be a joint enterprise, made real by both the public and author. It is argued that every copyright work depends on and is reflective of the author's exposure to externalities such as language, culture and the various social events and processes that occur in the public domain, therefore copyright works should not be regarded as exclusive private property. The study takes its organizing principle from John Locke, defining and proving the fatal flaw inherent in debates on copyright: on the one hand the copyright community is eager to arm authors with a robust property right over their creation, while on the other this community totally ignores the fact that the exposure of the individual to externalities is what makes him or her capable of creating material that is copyrightable. Just as Locke was against the absolute authority of kings, the expressed view of the study is against the exclusive right an author can claim".
What the IPKat says: Having heard the author defend his position live, in a talk he gave at Queen Mary a little while back, there is no doubt that he is a keen and lively debater of his thesis. And if there is anyone who can make Locke's philosophy relevant to today's copyright debate, Lior's your man. The IPKat however harbours grave doubts as to whether the ideas of Locke, or indeed any pre-contemporary philosopher, have anything to offer our understanding of authorship as we enter the digital era.

Left: John Locke, in a moment of rare joviality

The notion of an exclusive right in copyright as Locke must be taken to understand it is something that frankly does not exist today, given the extremely limited nature of the copyright so-called monopoly, the vast array of exceptions and defences to infringement and the sheer impossibility of policing and preventing all but the most egregious and profitable infringements. But this notice is not the proper place for a debate. In the meantime, go out and buy this book. If you are a Lockean, you will love it (particularly Chapter 6: 'Lockean Copyright Re-Imagined'). If you are not, then at least you will be constructively and beneficially annoyed and a good deal better informed.

Bibliographic details: published by Ashgate (in its Applied Legal Philosophy series). ISBNs 0 7546 2376 9 and 13 978-0-7546-2376-2. Hardback, xiv and 270 pages. Price £60/US$114. Rupture factor: mercifully small. Full details online here
Brandstock - a reader writes; The Idea of Authorship Brandstock  -  a reader writes; The Idea of Authorship Reviewed by Jeremy on Monday, April 02, 2007 Rating: 5


  1. Merpel! I assure you that "old rope" work (which it certainly is) does not cross-subsidise other work in any firm I have had any experience of. A very healthy profit has hitherto been made in both areas. However, Brandstock is part of a quiet revolution which patent and trade mark owners need to be aware of. "Creeping commoditisation" has radically altered the provision of legal services and it will have the same effect on patent and trade mark firms. If they ignore it, they will not survive. Also – in my experience, referrals out in this area are often not in the client's best interest as they often go to overseas firms who are more likely to refer work back to the referring firm (rather than to the most cost-effective supplier). Brandstock (in which I am disinterested) and its competitors are to be welcomed.

  2. The IPKat's Greek friend Michalis
    Kosmopoulos has emailed him to say: "I tend to agree with the 'money for old rope' thing. Most of the recordal work is work for secretaries. But it's a difficult ip world and we have to accomplish a lot of 'dirty' tasks until we get involved in a litigation compared only to an epic ancient Greek battle!"


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