When the business is over: an IP enthusiast's thoughts from San Francisco

This Kat at the Gala Dinner
After two very intensive 20-hour days of IP conferencing at IPBCGlobal 2015 [reported in nine blogposts on IP Finance and one on this weblog too], in which this Kat saw the San Francisco daylight just once, it seemed advisable to pause for a little thought -- as he did after this year's INTA Meeting down the coast in San Diego (here). Sharing a close space with 675 highly-focused intellectual property experts is an experience that can be intellectually draining and emotionally exhausting, since the venue offers little opportunity to create and enjoy one's own space.  If not in a conference session, you are likely to be rubbing shoulders with fellow badge-wearers in the coffee breaks, meal-times, bars, corridors and elevators. Even in the privacy of your own hotel room, the event's powerful pervasive force seems to radiate through the very walls as incoming phone calls, emails, #IPBC15 tweets and other social media penetrate the psyche.

The sharing covers more than physical space. A shared vocabulary must be mastered too, if one is to navigate the outward manifestations of others' inner thoughts and professional knowledge. A large majority of those attending were from North America and worked in or with patents. An understanding of words and terms such as "Alice", "Mayo", "101" and "IPRs" (not "intellectual property rights" here but "inter partes reviews") was therefore not merely useful; it was a passport to the effective comprehension of the words of others.  

The event itself, as an Intellectual Property Business Conference, was much more narrowly focused than its name suggested, to the extent that even sessions that ought to have been on quite different topics ended up talking about the same things.  This was both a weakness and, as it turned out in practice, something of a strength.

No? Maybe next year ...
For one thing, "IP" suggests a diverse range of registered and unregistered rights, though the programme was firmly embedded in the patent sector.  This was not a surprise for registrants, since the programme was published well in advance, but it is plain that the programme details themselves would have attracted people predominantly from the patent sphere, taking the event to an extra level of specialised homogeneity. Given the acute interest shown by participants in the recent dip in US patent filing and litigation statistics, in falling portfolio values and in the development of new patent-based business models, the decision to focus on patents this year was probably justified; a further justification was the fact that this year's conference, the best-attended to date, was sold out.
The only bit that matters?

Additionally, while the word "Global" does conjure up an image of something that is at least international in its nature, the programme was resolutely fastened upon the United States.  Again there are justifications for this, in that IP business methods, models, practices and investment are very much more in evidence in the United States, where people do more creative and adventurous things with patents both individually and as commodities than they do elsewhere.  

That said, the location of next year's event in Barcelona and the fact that the recent impact of US court decisions, legislative reform and USPTO practice has now been closely examined and is unlikely to have changed greatly in the coming twelve months and the coming changes in European trade mark and patent law all suggest strongly that the next IPBCGlobal event will have a very different feel to it.

Forget the old stereotypes. Today's
entrepreneurial inventors are more
likely to look like this ...
There was one item on the programme that troubled this Kat. This was the excellent session on "Inventor Insights" [noted on IP Finance here], in which a number of successful and award-winning inventors offered their experiences and their views.  This was not a bunch of wacky nerds talking transmitters and test-tubes, but a thoughtful set of presentations that addressed the entrepreneurial dimension of innovation: creating an appropriate strategy and corporate framework for developing, manufacturing or otherwise commercialising their intellectual assets, raising capital, protecting products and markets, overcoming regulatory hurdles and so forth.  

... than this
So what was the problem?  These presentations were made to rather too many empty seats, as many registrants opted to do other things, assuming that the session had nothing to interest them. Those who did attend were given a rare and well-articulated insight into the problems which cause entrepreneurial innovators to turn to seek professional help in the first place, their motivations, expectations and frustrations.  This Kat thinks that, even if a conference session looks prima facie misplaced, much can be gained from trusting the judgment of the programme organisers, who have more to lose than anyone else through making the wrong call.

Finally, this Kat feels that he should say something of the IP Hall of Fame and its Gala Dinner at which the induction of new members takes place.  Events of this nature are difficult to handle in a sensitive manner, since they provide not only a chance for the IP community to recognise the efforts of some of its members and perhaps a stimulus to achieve, but also an opportunity for old rivalries, jealousies and grievances to be unearthed. However, the warm, not overly formal and quite relaxed atmosphere created by the organisers helped to ensure that, if there any such undercurrents, they were not apparent.  Fame is not the same as merit or excellence: it's a question of personal brand recognition as much as anything else and the ballroom was full of IP achievers in the legal, commercial, strategic and informatic fields whose merits are not diminished by the fact that they may not be so widely recognised.

On a very personal note, this Kat would like to thank all his IP friends and colleagues past, present and future for their help, support and encouragement over the years, and for adding his name to the list of illustrious folk who were already in the IP Hall of Fame. A special mention should go to his friends and colleagues at Olswang LLP, the Oxford University Press team and editorial board of JIPLP, the crew at MARQUES, his fellow bloggers and, last but not least, Mrs Kat -- for whom no words of gratitude could ever be sufficient.
When the business is over: an IP enthusiast's thoughts from San Francisco When the business is over: an IP enthusiast's thoughts from San Francisco Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, June 18, 2015 Rating: 5


  1. I hope you didn't ask for Mayo on your chips.

  2. Mazal Tov on being induced into the Hall of Fame, and codn't Merpel have found a more discrete place to leave her litter?


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