Wednesday whimsies

Looking for a position. It's tough out there in the jobs market.  While the position of the market economies have definitely improved considerably since the dark, dark days of sub-prime mortgages, failing banks and doom-and-gloom prophecies, the supply of talented folk seeking gainful employment still seems to exceed the number of folk who are out there looking for someone. That's why the IPKat is happy to make his weblog available from time to time as a means of trying to match people up with those who may best appreciate their skill and labour.  Anyway, right now an imaginative correspondent of the IPKat, currently seeking a position within the wonderful world of IP, has written this short summary of her attitude to the topic:
"There exists a certain similarity between multi-sport competitions and working in the field of patent assets. Science, patenting, defence and enforcement, as well as various strategic considerations, all contribute towards defining the value of patent IP. I'm looking to find an application for my multi-sport skills in the field of patents. Who knows, new developments and IP records might be just around the corner in the triathlon of science, patents and law".
Our correspondent has a scientific background spanning maths, physics and chemistry, a legal education and a facility for modern languages (she has two native tongues and is fluent in another two).  She also has some years of experience in-house in developing patent portfolios -- oh, and she also has a sense of humour, as you can tell from the accompanying illustrations.  If you think you might have a role for her, email the IPKat at with the subject line "Triathlon" and he will forward your expression of interest to her.

New blog on the block. From Italian IP enthusiast Marco Pisana comes The IPizza Blog which, as readers might guess, seeks to run a pizza theme through its content in much the same way as this blog does with cats.  The text is in Italian -- as is new blog's the clean, bright style. Marco's first post is on the Pink Lady decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union [noted by the IPKat here]. This Kat will be watching this blog with interest; Merpel is sure that it's a recipe for success and hope it will give her lots of food for thought ...

That 20%: is it here ...?
Around the weblogs.  After last week's frenetic activity the 1709 Blog has continued to be busy. Andy Johnstone gives an update on 19 Recordings' US litigation against Sony as to whether the latter's taking a stake in Spotify was done in bad faith: this litigation looks as though it's getting bogged down in procedural niceties that are about as much fun as the small print an ISP's terms and conditions, while IPKat blogmeister Jeremy asks questions -- so far unanswered by that blog's large and well-informed readership -- as to whether there is any current news of the "20%  Fund" which some performers hope to enjoy, or at least get to make decisions about, before they die. And let's not forget the jiplp weblog, which is hosting a very serious piece by the Herbert Smith Freehills pairing of Sebastian Moore and Grace Pead on how the patent for the Exelon Alzheimer's patch came to be invalidated/

Bye-laws -- or bye-bye trainees? Gilman Grundy (Senior IP Specialist, Kenwood) wrote to the Kats the other day to ask them: "have you had a chance to peruse the CIPA [that's the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys in the UK] Bye-Laws Working Group Report that was emailed to CIPA members early last month for comment?" Well, no, we hadn't. But Gilman had a reason for asking. As he explained to us:
"The report includes proposals to amend the definition of Associate membership of CIPA so that it is limited to part-qualified trainee patent attorneys – all well and good (and boring), you no doubt think – but the definition of who can become an associate member (and is therefore a “part qualified trainee”) is somewhat odd:
“Persons of good repute not eligible for Fellowship or European Patent Attorney Membership who have studied for qualification as Patent Attorneys under the supervision of a Fellow or a European Patent Attorney Member of the Institute for a period of at least one year and who have passed such examinations relating to qualification as a Patent Attorney as are determined by Council as being appropriate for Associate Membership shall be eligible for election as Associates of the Institute” (my underlining).
That is, no-one who has not undergone training supervised by a UK or EP-qualified patent attorney will be recognised as part-qualified by CIPA. The report goes on to say that this is to ensure that the people in this membership class are
“undertaking the period of supervised practice . . . required in order to become a Registered or European Patent Attorney.”
Surely qualification
demands enough jumping
through hoops already?
The thing is, supervision is not, and (as far as I know) never has been, an absolute requirement for becoming a UK or European Patent Attorney. Both IPReg and the EPO allow for unsupervised qualification (see 4.2c here for IPReg, and here for the EPO). Admittedly the number of people qualifying by this route every year is likely quite small, but we do exist. Logically, someone who has passed some (or all) or the qualification exams, or at least the finals exams, and who fits the criteria for unsupervised qualification, should surely be regarded as a part-qualified patent attorney, but not according to the CIPA Bye-Laws Working Group! Does this signal an intention on the part of CIPA finally to close every other route to qualification as a patent attorney, other than the supervised route? What, then, of CIPA’s much vaunted attempts to increase the diversity of the UK patent profession? Surely the surest way of promoting the diversity of the profession is at least to maintain more than one path to qualification?"
Comments, anyone?
Wednesday whimsies Wednesday whimsies Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, July 15, 2015 Rating: 5


  1. I am delighted that I am not the only one that has taken an interest in the CIPA Bye Laws. However I cannot support the idea of unsupervised trainees being recognised. Supervision is the most important part of training - more valuable by far than the exams which merely confirm you absorbed some wisdom while being supervised and even EPO Examiners are supervised. The EPO examination regulations Art 11(2) require supervision, albeit not by a CIPA member. Its only fair that students should encourage their mentors to remain fellows, just as fellows encourage students to join CIPA. It is after all a membership organisation and we need to widen the membership, though judging from the webinar, I dont have much support for that.

  2. can someone please explain to me what this proposal means:

    "3.4 Persons of good repute established in the United Kingdom not eligible for Fellowship, European Patent Attorney Membership or Associate Membership or in business acting as agents for others for the purpose of applying for or obtaining patents who by virtue of their qualifications or association with intellectual property matters meet such criteria as Council may determine as being appropriate for Affiliate Membership shall be eligible for election as Affiliates of the Institute."

    Does it mean that anyone in the business of acting as an agent can become a Affiliate provided they are of good repute? Should the "or" be an "and not"? Why should qualified lawyers not be allowed to become Affiliates if they happen to act as agents? When our UK solicitors are involved in litigation do they not act as agents in the associated correspondence with the IPO?


  3. Anonymous: not (A or B) = (not A) and (not B)

  4. @Barbara - The question is not whether supervision should be a requirement of qualification, the question is whether it is logical or fair to withhold recognition of unsupervised trainees given that supervision is not a requirement of qualification. Does it really make seem reasonably for people to become qualified without (under the definition used in the amended bye-laws) ever having been part-qualified?

    I think it might also help to think about how this affects people who do not (for whatever reason) work in the traditional setting of a patent attorney firm or corporate patenting department. These may be, for example, stay-at-home parents working from the home, or people of limited mobility, or people living in remote areas. Obviously it may not be possible for these people to claim that they are working full-time under the direct supervision of a CIPA fellow or EPA, even if they are in daily correspondence with such people, even if they meet with them regularly, even if they attend training sessions. Would you really say that such a person - someone who may have passed all of the necessary exams - does not belong among the other people advancing toward final qualification?

    You describe the advantages that supervision confers. I think we can all agree that close supervision by an experienced mentor is the ideal way in which to gain knowledge and be steered through practice. However, let's not forget just how far short of this ideal it is possible to fall and yet still be 'supervised'. It is quite possible for a single attorney to have many trainees working under them, with the attorney only having a minimal amount of time to dedicate to overseeing the output of each one - indeed some clients may prefer such an arrangement as it will be cheaper for them. No doubt you deplore such arrangements, but these people, who may have less actual effective interaction with and oversight from a CIPA fellow or EPA than unsupervised trainees, are the people who will be recognised as trainees under the proposed amendments.

    Regarding the EPO, my understanding is that EPO examination regulations Art 11 (2)(a)(ii) gives allowance for unsupervised qualification, since it allows those who have "worked full-time for a period of at least three years in the employment of a natural or legal person whose residence or place of business is within the territory of the EPC contracting states and have represented their employer before the EPO in accordance with Article 133(3) EPC while taking part in a wide range of activities pertaining to European patent applications or European patents" to sit the EQEs (although various decisions have greatly limited this, to the point where it is difficult to see how anyone could in good conscience qualify by this route). If I am wrong about this I am happy to be corrected.

    Finally, the point about diversity in my original letter is meant seriously. If CIPA really wishes to recognise only one path to qualification, it can hardly be surprised if it ends up with a profession consisting of only one kind of person.

  5. "make seem reasonably" should read "seem reasonable", obviously.

  6. IIRC a part qualified trainee could choose to remain a student member, or apply to be an associate. Seeing no benefit to becoming an associate member, I think I stuck with the cheaper student membership.

    According to the updated proposed by-laws, there is now only an additional criteria for a part-qualified to become an associate. If there are not supervised, they can only be a student member. I don't see the problem with that? Once fully qualified they can still become a fellow. It's not blocking entry into the profession, just amending what class of membership they qualify for at a particular stage in their training.

  7. @Grebby - The proposed bye-laws seek to prevent people sticking in the Student membership bracket by compelling them to apply for Associate membership within 12 months of qualifying for a higher membership grade (see 6.1 on page 12 of the Group Report).

    Student membership will also be closed to anyone not supervised by a CIPA fellow or EPA under these proposed bye-laws (see 3.7 on page 11 of the Group Report), so that's a non-runner for me. In fact, unless I could qualify as an Affiliate (the definition of which is not exactly clear to me) I may stand to get chucked out under these rules.

  8. What needs to be balanced are the reputational risks involved in unqualified unsupervised students and associates being members of the Institute against the Institute’s educational mission providing training for aspiring patent attorneys in the UK.

    As currently drafted the proposed restriction on only supervised trainees being admitted to the Institute applies to all trainees regardless of whether they are admitted as associates or students (see Draft Bye-Laws 3.4 & 3.7).

    The entry requirements in Draft Bye-law 3 are admission requirements rather than on-going obligations. If a trainee ceases to be engaged or studying to become patent attorneys under the supervision of a qualified attorney or sets up in business as a patent attorney then there is a power for Council a power to expel them as Associates or Students (draft Bye-laws 12.2 (f) and (g)). However, whether or not Council chose to exercise such a power would be at their discretion enabling Council to consider all relevant facts and determine where the balance between reputational risk and educational mission lies.

    Finally, it should be noted that CIPA’s Bye-laws only determine rules for membership of CIPA as a membership club. Any requirements for qualification as a UK patent attorney are set and controlled by IPReg and none of those would change as a result of any changes to CIPA’s Bye-laws.

  9. Is not the notion of "balancing reputational risks" by such heavy handed a priori means a symptom of over-regulation? (sorry for the apparent circularity). But if your "sense of balance" is to act and limit on the mere possibility of a "risk" to reputation - as opposed to reacting to an actual offense - have you not instituted a control that is by definition "overbroad?"

  10. In addition to anonymous above at 13:19, if the motive for restricting CIPA membership in the track that leads towards becoming a CIPA Fellow to people under the direct supervision of a CPA or EPA is "reputational risk" (that is: all people seeking qualification other than those directly supervised by a CPA/EPA are a risk and should be excluded as such, despite being previously admitted), why is this nowhere stated in the Group Report? In fact the only reasons given for this limitation is that direct supervision is necessary to becoming an CPA/EPA, which is as far as I know not actually true, though it is of course (properly done) the best way.

    And let us consider what is already required to become an Associate member: the signatures of at least two and as many as five Fellows of the institute, as well as other supplementary evidence. Is this really not sufficient enough a check on potential "reputational risk"? Is it really necessary to exclude all but people working under the direct supervision of CPAs/EPAs from becoming Student/Associate members, and put all those who are Student/Associate members who do not fit within the present definition of these classes on notice of potentially being expelled?

    Of course it is possible that what anonymous at 10:48 says is true, and that CIPA is not going to simply clean-house and expel any current members who perhaps do not fit within the re-defined membership structure. However, since the Group Report says nothing about the reasons behind this change or how it will be applied, I think it perfectly reasonable to assume that "may expel" means "will expel".

    My father worked for Leyland during the worst of the industrial strife there in the 1970's and 80's, so please forgive me if I am reminded by these proposed bye-laws of the practice of the closed shop, where trade union leadership would (amongst other things) expel members for not working with other union members or in union-approved workplaces. Happily changes in the law in the early 1990's put an end to this kind of unjustifiable disciplining of trade union members. Indeed, now that CIPA's regulatory role has been hived off to IPReg, whilst one way of describing it is as a "membership club", its function of representing the members and interests of the profession is not dissimilar from the functions of a trade union.

  11. Thank you for your comments. That is the purpose of a consultation process. I just wish more people would contribute actively to the debate.

    The question here is not qualification as a patent attorney or membership of CIPA when qualified as a patent attorney; it is who should be able to be a member of the Institute when they have not yet qualified -- and who can obtain the benefits, including lower cost education, provided by the Institute.

    Whether students who have taken some of the exams or other qualifications, as well as students who are just starting out should be eligible for membership if they are not supervised by a member are very valid questions, and I am sure the comments all lead to discussion on these points.

  12. Having read all this there seems a good argument that we should allow anyone of good standing seriously interested in qualifying as a patent attorney to become a student member. One of the values of being in the Institute would be the opportunity to meet other students and members to help find that all-important job that gets you the supervision you need. People who don't quite fit will be quite happy to stay in student membership and in fact I don't think I ever moved into associate membership but the man with the books will know.
    On the question of supervision, I don't think there's really a problem about it being long distance occasionally. What is important is that the student should have access to their mentor and quality time to discuss issues. Many relationships don't work well. I've tried to "supervise" a range of people. Some learned a lot, some just ignored me and went their own sweet way. Which ended up better qualified is open to debate


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