Upcoming CIPA webinar on the Mercer Review, 29 Oct 2021

CIPA is holding a webinar to discuss the Mercer Review at 12:30, on 29 October 2021 (Friday). Sign-up for the webinar here

The Mercer Review was recently published in here.  The Review included a list of recommendations to improve training and examination (IPKat). Many of these recommendations were welcome, particularly the recommendations to improve access to the profession, continue the use of online examinations, and potentially align with the eEQE system, and to change to a limited open-book format. 

On the other hand, the Review is also somewhat lacking in detail on how the more aspirational recommendations could be implemented, and on the timescale for change. Successful implementation of the Mercer Review's recommendations may thus be difficult to determine. There was further a disappointing lack of any radical change to the Final Diploma examinations, other than the rather vague recommendations that each examination should be limited to its "core area", and be no more than 4 hours long. Still other recommendations of the Mercer Review are somewhat bizarre, particularly the suggestion that mark schemes for the exams should no longer be provided (how will this improve training and transparency?). There also appears to be no obligation on PEB to accept the recommendations of the review (although IPKat would be happy to be corrected on this). 

The panel for the webinar consists of contributors to the review, including Chris Mercer himself, as well as Vicki Salmon, Parminder Lally (CIPA Council), Lindsay Pike (Honorary Secretary of the CIPA Informals) and Lee Davies (CIPA CEO). Despite what might be assumed from this panel, the Review was conducted independently of CIPA governance. It will be interesting to hear how the panel envisages implementation of the Mercer Reviews recommendations. 

Hopefully the webinar will also include an opportunity to put questions to the panel, and CIPA should be thanked for providing a forum for further discussion of the Review. CIPA counsel is also accepting written comments on the Mercer Review report, which should be sent to CIPA’s Chief Executive, Lee Davies, by 31 December 2021 (charlotte@cipa.org.uk). 

Update, 27 Oct 2021: There will be a Q&A /chat box open throughout the webinar for attendees to submit comments and questions.

Further reading

26 Feb 2019: 2018 FD4 (P6 - Infringement and Validity) Pass Mark Reduced

8 March 2019: Gantry-gate: CIPA releases statement on FD4/P6 (Infringement and Validity)

4 Feb 2020: Gantry-Gate: Have your say in the Mercer Review

13 April 2021EPO plans radical shake-up of EQEs 2024 onwards

8 Oct 2021: Mercer Review on UK patent attorney exams released

Upcoming CIPA webinar on the Mercer Review, 29 Oct 2021 Upcoming CIPA webinar on the Mercer Review, 29 Oct 2021 Reviewed by Rose Hughes on Monday, October 25, 2021 Rating: 5


  1. As far as I can see, there seems to be a recommendation for more exams! exams! for candidates. Suggesting for all to move towards PEB foundations examinations which has about 7 exams. Suggesting that candidates should also do FD2 and FD3 even though these are the same exams as their corresponding EQE papers A and B.

    Why the addition of more and more exams. Don't we already have enough in this profession?

  2. I have been quite dissapointed - this was the chance to radically shake up the patent examination system, where many of the exams particularly FD4 are not fit for modern day practice/purpose.

  3. The point raised by IPKAT on timescales is important. This review was started in 2018, it is now 2021. Candidates have gone through three exam years in this time. What timescales are on the PEB to respond to this review? To make changes? I suspect absolutely none and this will be ignored by PEB, much like the earlier Middlesex review.

  4. My view is that this report is pretty much pointless. There is no commitment for CIPA, IPREG or PEB to take on board any of the recommendations and if they do, I fear they will only cherry pick recommendations that they like.

    The recommendations are pretty weak as they are but it is a small step forward in reforming the professional exams.

    1. Cherry picking what they like could be problematic.

    2. Good point - CIPA, PEB and IPREG can just cherry pick what they want from the review. That is a big worry. For example, they could make it compulsory for all trainees to do PEB foundations and FD2, FD3 exams but will do nothing to address the time pressure for candidates.

  5. I'm glad they've decided to do a webinar. Frankly, some of the recommendations really could do with explanation especially around getting rid of mark schemes. It's going to take some persuasion.

  6. The points in the review would not substantially change the examination system and in 5-10 years, we will probably be in uproar again. Many qualified and trainee attorneys do not like the current exam system. Put simply, a significant portion of the profession do not believe the exams, especially FD4, are fit for purpose. None of this has been addressed one bit by the review.

  7. I see no point of this review if it is "optional" to take on board the recommendations. It would be a complete waste of time for everyone who have contributed to the review in the last 3 years.

  8. Would someone be willing to take some of the valid queries on here and send to CIPA? Don't know what the best route forward would be but some of the concerns/queries on here is worth notifying to CIPA.

  9. Suppression of wages for experienced trainees and qualified European attorneys is also another area of concern which I hoped it would have been partly covered by the Mercer review as it is somewhat linked to the examination process. Even if you have qualified as both UK and European attorneys, UK wages for the average attorney have consistently lagged behind their European and US counterparts. I guess the Mercer review may not be the correct forum to address this issue but nevertheless, it should be highlighted.

    1. Do you have a source for the salary info? Not saying it's wrong, but I'd be interested to see the numbers

    2. Fellow&associates do a survey every year which includes comparing international vs UK salary. Every year, international wages are consistently above UK wages, yet the exams in UK are more demanding. The idea that harder & more exams = better pay is not true. It only just delays or suppress the wages of a significant majority in the profession and therefore, when they do pass, alot of experiences are not accounted for in the increase of wages so over longer term, UK wages are significantly less than elsewhere. It is well known US and DE counterparts are paid much more handsomely than UK. I put a link down below. There are other things too that the survey highlights like number of training days given off.


    3. I think FD4 is not fit for purpose and requires radical overhaul. That said, I won’t engage in confirmation bias to support that view.

      The report focuses mainly on UK where the sample size is 155 vs 43 for the REST OF THE WORLD.

      Cherry picking stats to support the view that UK wages are "suppressed" (why not use the word lower?) compared to rest of the world is not helpful. Graph 3.2.1 shows higher UK wages for 4-5 years' PQE, which could be used to support the equally unhelpful claim that harder exams give better pay. Only 2 equity partners took part – this omission alone is worrying.

      Training days off don’t have an international comparison.

      At best, this report breaks down the UK situation, but is not reliable for a worldwide comparison. At worst, a sample size of 155 is probably not enough for a profession in the low 1000s.

      “It is well known US and DE counterparts are paid much more handsomely than UK.” – Prove it!

      Unsubstantiated claims have no part on this debate, irrespective of which side you fall on.

  10. The problem with most of the PEB exams is the sheer volume of content and/or lack of time for anyone to properly think and process the information. It is so exhausting having a full on 5 hour examination.The amount of content in exams nowadays (and probably previously) means that there is always a rush to the end. It is not good for candidates rushing through complex issues in FD4. Even in FD1, some complex issues require some thinking time. In my view, candidates are forced to rush and therefore, mistakes happen or they write something utterley incorrect/inaccurate/missing things because of timing. In real life, you would not rush like this and it shouldn't happen in professional exams too.

    I think the exams needs to be cut down. 2-3 hours exam is sufficient. The exams needs to be spaced apart (having a day in between FD1 and FD2). Now that it is online, I see no reason why it cannot be spaced out more.


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