Organising a party in a brewery

brewerThe first item on the agenda, at a recent management meeting at Anderson Towers, was to discuss whether IP Draughts should accept an invitation to become the next chairman of a Law Society committee. The discussion did not start well.

Mr Pettifog dismissed the idea as ridiculous. He reminded everyone of the precedent of ‘Lanky’ Short, a former partner of the firm, who became Deputy President of the Law Society at the time of the Suez Crisis. That didn’t result in a single piece of work coming to the firm, Mr Pettifog declared triumphantly.

At this point, there was a stunned silence, mainly because no-one else in the room had heard of Lanky Short. Later, IP Draughts found out from Deirdre Sprockett, the firm’s archivist, that Mr Short had been the batman of Mr Pettifog’s father, when the latter was an army officer during the Second World War. Lance Corporal Short had been encouraged to qualify as a solicitor by Pettifog-pere in the late 1940s, at a time when there was a shortage of solicitors. He had quickly risen through the ranks of the firm, mainly due to his popularity with slum landlords, for whom he acted in eviction actions with glee and a certain lack of restraint.

Lanky would have continued his meteoric rise through the profession by becoming President of the Law Society in 1957 if he hadn’t been convicted and imprisoned for embezzlement and removed from the roll of solicitors, shortly before his term of office was due to start. He was also removed from the firm’s official history and never referred to by the partners again, hence the puzzlement at his name by most of the people attending the meeting.

moreIP Draughts started to say that he wasn’t doing the job to get in new client work, but was drowned out by a clamour of voices. The Draughtatrix wanted to know whether there was a gold chain of office, like that worn by the President of the Law Society. She was disappointed by IP Draughts’ negative reply, and by his refusal to commission a chain from Aspreys.

Young Hope cheekily asked whether IP Draughts would be going on an expenses-paid trip to the Milan Opera as a representative of the Law Society. This was a reference to Mr Pettifog’s trip there on behalf of SADDO, as reported in these pages at the time. Having discussed the matter with his committee secretary, IP Draughts is aware of the rules on claiming expenses for overseas trips, and he has no current plans for a jolly arduous event of this kind.

Hilary Reverse-Polish-Notation, our severe Budget Director, commented that a proportion of the amortised costs of IP Draughts computer facilities should be allocated to a Law Society account. IP Draughts was able to reassure her (or is it him? IP Draughts is never quite sure with Hilary) that there is a Law Society fixed allowance for committee chairman of several thousand pounds, which is meant to cover costs of this kind.

biasThe discussion moved on to the courses that IP Draughts had been required to take, as a pre-condition of becoming chairman, on the subjects of Disability Confident and Unconscious Bias. Mr Pettifog exploded when Young Hope suggested that all members of the firm’s management committee should take these courses. I don’t need to go on computer courses to tell me that I am biased, expostulated Mr Pettifog. But how would you know whether you have unconscious bias unless someone else tells you, asked Young Hope with remorseless logic.

Thankfully, at this point Mavis Trestle came in with the tea trolley, and discussion turned to the quality of the digestive biscuits. The minutes of the meeting record that the management committee unanimously approved IP Draughts’ appointment. But IP Draughts is in charge of the minutes, and no-one else can be bothered to read them…



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Would you like to be a member of the IP Law Committee?

law societyNow that the Kat is out of the bag, IP Draughts can confirm what he has known, or thought he has known, for several weeks: that he has been appointed as the next Chairman of the Intellectual Property Law Committee of the Law Society of England and Wales. The appointment is for a 3-year term, starting in September.

A Law Society press release on this subject was issued a few minutes ago. IP Draughts’ haste to mention the topic is because the Committee is also in search of new members. The deadline for applying is 5pm today, so if you are interested (and are a member of the Law Society) you will need to apply this afternoon. Details of the vacancies and how to apply can be found here. Expenses are paid (subject to loads of rules) and there is also an annual allowance of about £60o. (Wow!)

In IP Draughts’ unbiased view, being a member of the Committee enables you to make a contribution to the IP profession, and to influence new legislation in the UK, EU and internationally. If you have experience as an IP lawyer, have a mindset where you think about the legal issues involved, and are willing to contribute to discussions and position papers, you may well be the person we are looking for.

The background to this recruitment drive is that for the last decade (and earlier, but IP Draughts is not familiar with that period) the committee operated as a lowly sub-committee, and was largely left to get on with its work undisturbed by Law Society protocols. The work was done very well, and eventually (a few months ago) the Law Society recognised this fact, and decided to upgrade us to being a full committee. However, one consequence of the increase in status is that we are now required to comply with Law Society procedures for committees, including a requirement to retire members and appoint new ones in a 3-year cycle.

The formalities for appointing the Chairman are even more detailed than for members. As well as undergoing SRA checks, and approval by a Board of the Law Society, IP Draughts was required to take 2.5 hours of online training on the subjects Disability Confident and Unconscious Bias, and to pass two exams in these subjects, which he has done. At least IP Draughts is now fully conscious of his biases.




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Book on our IP transactions course, 20-24 April

ip_transactionsThere are still a few places left on our 5-day course, Intellectual Property Transactions: Law and Practice, which is held each year at University College London’s Faculty of Laws.

This will be the third, annual outing of the course, which has won two awards:

  1. A UCL Provost’s Teaching Award – the first CPD course to win this prestigious award; and
  2. A Law Society Excellence Award (Highly Commended) in the Learning and Development category.

The course covers a range of industry and market sectors, including M&A, IT, life sciences, media and universities, and a range of transaction types. Most topics are covered with a mixture of legal lecture, practice discussion and practical workshop.

The course is taught by approximately 25 experienced IP and commercial lawyers. Students on the course are a mixture of UK and overseas IP lawyers, patent and trade mark attorneys, and research/licensing managers. Lawyers on the course come from a variety of backgrounds including mainly:

  • major City of London and international law firms
  • specialist IP law firms
  • legal departments of companies

An application form for the course can be found at the back of the course brochure here.

Please make your application as soon as possible, as we are making final arrangements for this year’s course. If you have any questions, please contact

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Official recognition for IP Draughts: certified by the IPO

ipocertificateIP Draughts is delighted to announce that he has successfully completed a training programme in IP law that has recently been established by the UK Intellectual Property Office.

A copy of IP Draughts’ certificate, signed personally by Rosa Wilkinson, Director of Innovation at the IPO, is shown left.

The UK’s IP Minister, Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, announced the creation of the course in a speech earlier this week. It is part of the IPO’s drive to increase understanding of IP in universities and schools.

The online programme is intended to take 40 minutes to complete, and covers all of the main types of intellectual property: trade marks, patents, designs and copyright, as well as trade secrets.

The course is lively and reasonably entertaining. Money has been spent on making it look professional. The video interviews of people describing how they chose and applied for different types of IP protection are particularly engaging. An interactive flow-chart, showing how an inventor has choices to make – does he talk to an angel investor, get him to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), apply for a patent or keep his idea secret, etc – is thought-provoking and illustrates that there is more than one way to commercialise IP. The flow-chart can be reset and replayed, enabling you to go down a different route and come out with a different end result.

As a “taster” for undergraduate students, introducing them to IP, it has much to commend it. It is much more impressive, in IP Draughts’ view, than the guides for SMEs that the IPO produced some years ago (some of them with IP Draughts’ help as a member of an advisory committee). There is greater ambition in this new training programme, and much more money has been spent, and spent well, to make a dry subject interesting.

lunchA huge amount of legal and commercial content has been packed into a 40 minute show. Probably too much, and probably some of it will be a turn-off, eg the summaries of the different periods of protection for copyright works. Yet it may be no bad thing to make students aware that the subject contains a lot of complex detail that cannot be learnt in a lunch-break.

As a picky lawyer, there were times when IP Draughts’ winced at the over-simplification, or at a few schoolboy errors in the legal explanations. To take some examples:

Wrong information: The course is right when it says that you don’t need to get your patent lawyer to sign an NDA, but that is because they are bound by professional duties of confidentiality, not (as the course stated) because they are “subject to legal privilege”.

Unhelpful information: It is not  helpful to have a comment appear when you hover over the words “legally binding [contract]” that says simply “the contract has been entered into consciously and all parties know what is expected of them”. As every law student should know, there is more to making a contract legally-binding than that. In this case, the explanation should have been omitted.

Partial information: When the course mentions crowdfunding, it rightly refers to the need to investigate “IP considerations” before inviting crowdfunders. But because of its narrow focus on IP, the course fails to alert the reader to what may be a more important and immediate legal consideration – the need to avoid breaking the law on marketing investment opportunities.

IP Draughts is happy to be corrected, but he suspects some of these deficiencies have arisen because the IPO has taken expert advice from patent and trade mark attorneys, but not from IP lawyers. See this announcement from the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys that mentions the involvement of patent and trade mark attorneys in the development of the course. Protecting and commercialising IP requires an understanding of commercial, financial and corporate law, as well the important but narrow subject of how to generate the IP in the first place.

IP Draughts doesn’t under-estimate how difficult it is to translate complex legal content into a simple and entertaining 40 minute introductory course for non-law students. Generally, he is impressed with the content. However, his instinct would have been to remove some of the legal explanations, and perhaps save them for a more detailed course where there may be more space and time to get them right.

It is a worthwhile exercise, developing a training programme in IP for non-law, university students. The visual appeal of this course is good, and most of the content is good. It just needs a bit more editing. This is not a big surprise; IP Draughts’ courses have tended to improve over time as the content has been tweaked. He has even been known to edit blog posts after they have been published!

IP Draughts hopes that the IPO will get feedback from students who take the course, and will fine-tune the content in response to their comments. He also hopes there will be a decent budget for producing revised editions.









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