Patent conferences: what are they worth?

What cats do in autumn when they're
not attending patent conferences ...
Autumn is traditionally a very busy time for intellectual property conference organisers, with the weeks from mid-September to early December being increasingly crammed with meetings of international and regional organisations, industrial and professional associations and with events put on by the conference "private sector": commercial companies.  The latter cannot routinely rely on the loyalty or commitment of members, service providers or lobbyists when they're looking for speakers or seeking participants to register and make the event a viable one. Private sector conference organisers have to succeed on the merit of each programme. If they cannot provide something fresh and stimulating, something to prise participants from their daytime activities, they do not succeed.

Over the years this Kat has spoken in, chaired, participated in panels of, written programmes for and even gatecrashed a large number of private sector conferences, and has had ample opportunity to consider what makes them tick.  Essentially there are four things that most paying participants want, in varying proportions: (i) the stimulus of fresh ideas and perspectives on old topics, (ii) indications as to where the subject of the conference is going, in terms of general trends, (iii) a chance to evaluate speakers (whether judges, lawyers in practice or anyone else) with or against whom they may be working, and (iv) a chance to network. Quality of the papers presented is never irrelevant, though most speakers' subjects can scarcely be exhausted in the time allocated for them and, in terms of post-event benefit, the shelf-life of even the best lectures is unlikely to outlast the long-term benefit of a good professional relationship forged over a congenial lunch.

This Kat has been taking a particularly close look at three forthcoming private sector events, each of which is organised under the brand of IBC Legal Conferences.  There are two reasons for this scrutiny: the first is his longstanding fascination with event programmes, which double as a valuable source of ideas for articles in journals and people who can be invited to write them. The second is that IBC has kindly agreed to offer a 10% discount to IPKat (and PatLit) readers who register for them. Since this weblog has frequently expressed its concerns about the high price of conference registration, any reduction for its readers is greatly welcomed.

The first of the three events is Standards and Patents 2011 (16 to 17 November, Millennnium Hotel London Knightsbridge), a subject which has been discussed at some depth on the IP Finance weblog, mainly through the medium of a series of seven guest posts by Keith Mallinson (WiseHarbor).  This is the fifth annual conference IBC has run on this topic and this Kat, having participated as a speaker in an earlier one, remembers coming away from a feeling that this was a subject that was growing more quickly than it could conveniently be caught up with.  The number of standards bodies is vast and their provenance is ancient: the International Telecommunications Union's roots go back to telegraphic standards in 1865. As the quest for global standards comes increasingly into conflict with perceptions of both public interest and self-interest, this looks like one growth area that is likely to grow.
  • For further information concerning this programme, click here.  To claim your 10% discount, remember to quote the VIP Code FKW82242IPKE.

The second event is the US Patent Reform Congress 2011, which is being held at the same venue as Standards and Patents but a day later (18 November).  Since this event is preoccupied with the recently-passed America Invents Act, it goes without saying that this isn't (yet) an annual event.  The object of this exercise is to present the results of several years of anguished debate to a European audience which will have to advise and and act upon the basis of unknown, untried legislation in what is still the most prized single domestic market for patented products and services.  It will be good to hear what Q. Todd Dickinson (former  US Under-Secretary for Intellectual Property and now Executive Director of the AIPLA) has to say on the subject -- both on and off the record.
  • For further information concerning this programme, click here.  To claim your 10% discount, remember to quote the VIP Code FKW82243IPKE

Last in time, but by no means in terms of importance, is the third annual International Patent Litigation conference, which takes place at London's Bloomsbury Hotel on 8 December.  This event is conveniently close both to Christmas and to London's fabled West End but, if you're really feeling demob-happy at the end of a long, frustrating year, it's a great chance to see and hear Professor Sir Robin Jacob in action. Another speaker who long ago won this Kat's admiration for his sheer brilliance was Brinkhof's Richard Ebbink. Having said that, no speaker should be more important than the event itself, and the programme presses all the main buttons in terms of topics of concern. Damages for patent infringement would come out top of this Kat's priorities, since he is being asked about their assessment increasingly often in a Europe in which harmonised law does not lead to homogenised outcomes. Where is the stream of references to the Court of Justice on the interpretation of the damages provisions of the IP Enforcement Directive, he wonders?
  • For further information concerning this programme, click here.  To claim your 10% discount, remember to quote the VIP Code FKW82249IPKE
Patent conferences: what are they worth? Patent conferences: what are they worth? Reviewed by Jeremy on Sunday, September 25, 2011 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. "WiseHarbor" strings together material in an interesting order to arrive at some interesting conclusions. I particularly liked him citing the ITU establishing FRAND in 1865, in a weird "hah, slam dunk" on software patents.

    Perhaps he could also remind us what programming languages they were using and for which systems they were developing applications?

    No? Perhaps its because they were dealing with intrinsicll excludable hardware produced in capital intensive factories in a fairly unconnected world, in which the capital and resource investment without any foreknowledge of (for want of a better expression) the weightless economy in a connected world.

    Even in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century as knowledge was dispersing more quickly around the world, similar ideas were emerging in more that one place, "Swan-Edison" anyone? Lokta-Volterra? Einstein only got there first not alone.

    The patent system, lest we forget, did not evolve from scientific experiment leading to a set of priniciples capable of being reproduced in laboratories across the world. It is the product of political economy and not always in circumstances that bear bright light.

    I wonder what the patent system would look like today if it were being started from scratch.

    While I am sure the patent system is a source of great innovation for lawyers, the intellectual property agreement of, for example, the Storage Network Industry Association, seems to me to a clear indicator of industry trying to avoid the ghastly consequences of a system that has become a huge deadweight to the economy.

    The IPKat seems to note with enthusiasm Wiseharbor's almost macabre glee in his belief that eventually a group of desperate companies will find the VP8 codec infringes something.

    Clearly it's taking large and expensive efforts to find something that "so obviously" infringes their IP. So innovative. Perhaps the IPKat might want to re-read American Needle and consider whether this behaviour towards VP8* is protecting innovation or is merely cartel activity? It's certainly FUD as written up by Wiseharbor.

    Let's also look at today's story: in which VIA are doing a mini OIN on behalf of HTC.

    Regardless of the relationship between VIA and HTC until the shadow of the patent system protection innovation they were not suing Apple. Then there is this story about Lodsys suing an app developer: all great for innovation. Thanks to the patent system you need to employ a lawyer and a patent agent, no doubt at bargain rates, before you can earn a living doing anything more innovation than working in a feudal system.

    Congratulations everybody, I'm really proud of you.

    PS: VP8 was bought by Google and given away to enable others to use it (they consider it unencumbered and no-one has actually sued them yet).

    I note with some irony that this blog and indeed IPFinance are all on Google's free blogging platform. Perhaps you ought to replatform on your own server? You can get a virtual slice with decent bandwidth for a few hundred, buy a few licences, OS, database, blogging software, emailer, spam, virus protection and so forth. You migh need to pay for someone to support all that for you and alos keep good records to the BSA doesn't feel the need to pay you a visit. Because after all, none of you would want to use that nasty infringing Free and Open Source stuff, would you?


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