Litigating patents? It's conference time ...

It's not actually true to say that Europe, having first been afflicted by a new, complex and idiosyncratic patent system, has now been smitten by a plague of patent conferences in its wake. However, there do seem to be a few of them around at this time of year -- and there also seem to be a lot of people, especially Europeans, who are determined to attend them.  The reasons for this are not hard to find. For example, and not entirely flippantly, one might suggest the following:
  • In the first place, there's an old saying that, among the blind, the one-eyed man is king [Merpel wants to know about the prospects of one-eyed women being queen ...]. There are a few people who, on the basis that they feel that they do genuinely know something about the new patent litigation scheme for Europe, get the urge to tell everyone else about their real or imagined expertise. Conferences are great places for doing so but, at the onset of the largest upheaval in patent law and patent litigation that Europe has ever seen, hardly any of us has that comforting degree of knowledge gained through experience to be able to claim to be anything other than one-eyed.
  • Then there are people who genuinely want to find about about the new parameters for patent litigation in Europe, the United States and indeed beyond, and who consider that it is more efficient to derive their understanding of the subject from a focused conference than by randomly searching the web, reading blogs or anxiously devouring the newsletters sent to them by law firms, trade organisations and, where appropriate, lobby groups.
  • Others who attend are creatures of habit. Their commercial or professional success has depended on their unerring consistency. Being averse to change, they attend patent law events in the hope of receiving comfort from speakers who say things like "while the substance of the law is changing, things will remain much the same in practice" -- words that one rarely hears in patent conferences at this juncture.
  • Finally there are the people who enjoy networking. They pick up the conference pack, skim the photocopied PowerPoint frames for useful statistics and signs of intelligibility, and then save themselves for the tea, coffee and lunch breaks when they can glean some really useful information, such as what other ordinary folk are making of the sea of change in which all good patent people are tossed.
Putting a patent case together will usually
involve a blend of knowledge and experience
There are also some more solid legal reasons for patent litigation conferences.  Patents are infringed on a daily basis in a world where global marketing strategy, international trade and outsourcing to foreign countries means that regular bog-standard patent infringement actions increasingly have an international dimension.  Accordingly it's good to learn how others put their cases together, how they deal with jurisdictional and enforcement issues, and how they propose to do so in a world of institutional change.

Looking further afield, readers of both this blog and IP Finance will know that there has been an extensive and ongoing debate as to whether patent litigation, and in particular United States patent litigation, has had the effect of depressing patent values, thereby damaging the prospects of patents being firmly recognised as a respectable asset class; investigation of patent litigation in general, bearing in mind its points of intersection with standard essential patents and FRAND arrangements, is thus a worthwhile course of action.  And now that the America Invents Act is losing that glossy sheen of novelty that attended its arrival, many people who resisted events that dealt with it in its embryonic stages are now prepared to lend their ear to practitioners' perspectives on how they live and work with it.

So what is the best that anyone can hope for, when the conference programme that spans the known, the known knowns and the unknown knowns as this one does [Merpel doubts that many patent dispute resolution experts would admit at this stage to there being many, or indeed any, unknown unknowns]? For one thing, one should hope speakers who can look at the new laws -- and the new problems which they cause -- clearly and objectively, measuring them against their personal experience of the old laws; speakers who can interact with their audience, answer questions and, where appropriate, bounce them back at their inquisitors. An event that furnishes such speakers, this Kat is pleased to say, is IBC's 6th Annual International Patent Litigation Conference which takes place on 4 and 5 December in the amenable atmosphere of the Melia White House Hotel, London [for some personal reminiscences concerning this venue, see below].  Several of his friends are speaking, and the organisers are offering a 15% registration fee reduction for readers of this weblog [to claim the 15 % discount, register using this link and be sure to quote the VIP KatCode FKW82525IPKB]

Among the participants is Michael Fysh QC, former Patents County Court judge and now reborn as an arbitrator and mediator. Michael has been a veritable font of kindness for the many youngsters who have approached him for career advice, guidance and experience in the course of his long career. Also on the programme is seasoned veteran Ken Adamo (Kirkland & Ellis LLP), whose lucid lectures have the persuasive flavour of advocacy about them.  Katfriends Morag MacDonald (Bird & Bird, left), Richard Vary (Nokia), Sally Field (Bristows) and the eponymous Mehmet Gün are there too, not to mention EPLAW Honorary President Pierre Véron, Margot Fröhlinger (all the way from Eponia), knowledgeable Kevin Mooney (Simmons & Simmons), the dashing Justin Turner QC and, well, you can see for yourself who else is there ...


The Melia White House Hotel, just round the corner from London's Regents Park, holds many happy childhood memories for this Kat, who in the late 1950s and early 1960s was just a curious kitten. Most of these memories relate to the fact that his mother worked there for several years in the hotel's pharmacy.  The hotel, which offered a mixture of regular rooms for short-term guests and suites for long-term inmates, was favoured by numerous celebrities of the day whose autographs were assiduously solicited and then shown around at school, to the general envy of all concerned. Many were tennis players, including the nearly forgotten Wimbledon winners Tony Trabert, Chuck McKinley, Lew Hoad and Rod Laver. Other notable White House celebrities who ended up in the autograph book included the tragically depressive comedian Tony Hancock (right, whose sketches The Blood Donor and The Lift are in places cringingly and almost unwatchably funny) and the West Indies Cricket tour team of 1963, including the incomparable Sir Garfield Sobers whose batting and bowling were definitely better than his handwriting.
Litigating patents? It's conference time ... Litigating patents? It's conference time ... Reviewed by Jeremy on Sunday, September 21, 2014 Rating: 5


  1. " among the blind, the one-eyed man is king "

    The following comment is not directed at the conference advertised.

    The vast majority of IP conference presenters are in no position to preach about the subject. The same old faces are wheeled out time after time to spout their non-expert views. Some stand up and say they haven't had time to prepare slides so preach from noted they scribbled on the morning tube train. Others stand there and unashamedly say they haven't seen the slides before. And, what on earth are those double acts all about. It's as dumbed down as breakfast TV.

    The ludicrous demands of IPREG for patent attorneys to attend lots of conferences has resulted in an increase in expensive drivel being forced upon us. Money for old rope.

  2. Anonymous - I agree that many of the IP conferences are a total rip-off. Poorly prepared, poorly attended and you come away from them no better informed and a good deal poorer than when you signed up for them.

    It's not scientific and it's not guaranteed to work either but if I have to go to one of these things, I try to go to one that runs every year, like this one, on the assumption that if it wasn't any good, word would have got round by now and it would have been killed off by delegate apathy or by the competition. Also, if speakers have to come a long way, they are more likely to make an effort in order to justify the disruption to their lives.

    Actually the IBC events I've been to have been on the whole quite good, though I don't know about this one since I don't do much patent work.

  3. Good one! The problem is that the holding of conferences has become an industry in itself, and, in order to survive, the industry has to produce a steady stream of "new" conferences, because, once everybody has been to a particular conference, they're not going to pay for a repeat performance. It's a bit like selling fridges, once everyone has got one, nobody is going to buy another until the old one irreparably breaks down, so the fridge manufacturer has to dream up something else for the public to buy. This is capitalism at its best/worst.

    Personally, I've done all the really useful ones, and intend to go nowhere near a Unitary Patent/UPC conference until the darn thing is actually here and people can give some actual expertise. Given the Spanish determination to block the whole affair, I might well be dead by the time said useful conference materialises. At least this will save me the attendance fee.

  4. I agree that IPREG should not force us to go to conferences as they do.

    However in contrast to the previous comments I have found that almost all the IP talks at conferences I've been to in the last 18 years have been pretty good.

  5. Does this mean we have agreement that the role of CIPA should be to stand up for its members and challenge the ludicrous rules made by IPREG that provide no benefit for the industry's customers?

    After all, CIPA is trying to work out what its role is.

  6. I'm not sure what CIPA or ITMA can do to get IPReg from off their backs. Wasn't IPReg foist on them from above in the first place?

    Presumably conferences like this attract plenty of people who have nothing to do with IPReg at all: to name a few - solicitors, barristers, businessmen, anyone who is not attending from the UK (or is that just England & Wales? Does IPReg govern Scotland and N. Ireland too?)

  7. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the day would come when Tony Hancock and the Unified Patents Court would feature in the same blog post. But then, they are two of the greatest tragi-comic acts the world has ever seen


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