Reflections on IP transactions course

humperdinkAnother year of our course, Intellectual Property Transactions: Law and Practice, is over. Last Friday at 4 pm, in room LG5 of the graduate wing of the UCL Faculty of Laws, our second group of students completed 29 hours of continuing education over 5 days.

The largest group of students was newly-qualified lawyers working in the IP departments of law firms, but we also had in-house lawyers in industries ranging from whisky to electronics, as well as patent and trade mark attorneys, and technology transfer managers at universities and research charities. A majority of our students were qualified in England, but some were lawyers or patent attorneys from Scotland or further afield, including Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, Japan, Switzerland and the USA.

The course is intensive, for both them and for IP Draughts, who was present for most sessions. Over the course of a week we give insights into IP aspects of M&A, R&D agreements, patent and know-how licensing, pharmaceutical industry agreements, software and telecoms contracts and media transactions. As well as discussing IP laws, we have sessions on competition law, insolvency, tax and using IP as security. The course covers a lot of ground in a short space of time!

soapAfter two years of running the course and getting positive feedback from students, we have some grounds for optimism that the course will continue for several years.  Its popularity partly lies in the fact that it meets a need and is unique – one of our overseas students told IP Draughts that she had researched the courses available in several countries, including the USA, and considered it to be the only course of its kind in the World.  (She also explained that she was paying personally to attend the course, which surely focuses the mind when it comes to choosing a course that costs several thousand pounds.) The course’s success depends on a large group of specialist speakers, teaching to a focussed agenda and giving practical insights based on their experience, and the ever-excellent support of Lisa Penfold and her colleagues at the Faculty of Laws.

A few points that occurred to IP Draughts during this year’s course:

  • new sessions on the licensing of TV programmes, run by John Enser and his colleagues from Olswang, provided insights into how the structuring of agreements in the media sector requires an understanding of both the industry and its delivery technologies.  IP Draughts was interested to learn that the technical definitions in agreements in this sector can be just as complex and multi-layered as he has seen in sophisticated agreements in the biotech sector.
  • Choosing which branch of IP law to specialise in may depend as much on your temperament as your technical understanding.  At the risk of making gross generalisations, life sciences practitioners seem to be at one end of a spectrum and media at the other, with IT somewhere in the middle.
  • The drafting of warranty clauses in the M&A sector seems to be much influenced by market practice, sometimes to the detriment of clear and straightforward drafting.  It was interesting to hear the defence of “represents and warrants” and market pressure to maximise potential remedies for breach including remedies in tort, even though speakers could not point to any case where the court had awarded damages for breach of warranty using the basis of calculation used in tort cases.  This led on to a interesting discussion of the different approaches taken in the negotiation of terms in “one-off” transactions such as M&A (hard-edged), compared with agreements where the parties are to work together over an extended period, such as R&D and licence agreements (more cooperative).
  • qcone of our speakers, Michael Fealy, became a QC (Queen’s Counsel) during the week of the course – congratulations to him!  IP Draughts is uncertain whether to claim that speaking on the course improves your career, or that he has chosen the highest-calibre speakers for the course, or both.

Now IP Draughts has to write the exam questions and work out whether and how we can enable people from overseas to take the exam remotely.

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