Author Archives: Mark Anderson

About Mark Anderson

I am an English solicitor (attorney) who qualified originally as a barrister in 1983. After working as an in-house lawyer and with Bristows in London, I formed Anderson & Company (now Anderson Law LLP) in 1994. Our offices are based in Oxfordshire, on the banks of the River Thames, 50 miles west of London. Outside work, I enjoy walking, swimming and canoeing. I met my wife Sara whilst cycling from Land's End to John O'Groats (1,100 miles) in 1991.

A trip to the Ministry of Magic

Fans of the Harry Potter books and films will be familiar with the strange world of the Ministry of Magic, which is both a building and a set of serious, powerful witches who purport to run the country.

Last week, IP Draughts had an appointment at the UK Ministry of Justice. It was only after he left that the similarities with the fantasy world of J K Rowling became clear.

Several aspects of his visit were weird. First the address, 102 Petty France, which is strange enough by itself. Then the reception process, where IP Draughts was challenged repeatedly on whether he had an appointment (he did) and was told that the person he was due to see was on holiday that day (he wasn’t). It felt like the security guard was waiting to see whether IP Draughts’ magic potion would wear off under cross-examination, and he would then be revealed to be an impostor.

When, eventually, he was allowed to have a badge and to go through the security process, there was a large queue of people waiting to pass through small glass pods into the secure area. IP Draughts was reminded of the queueing process to get into the Ministry of Magic. Let us just say that people were flushed after that experience.

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A new era for Anderson Law

It has finally happened. The removal men came this morning and took the contents of Anderson Law’s offices away. As IP Draughts writes, the office is being reassembled at Howbery Business Park, in Wallingford, three miles away.

IP Draughts moved from London to Shillingford in 2000, and built a new house and office there a couple of years later. While that office was being built, we managed to squeeze four desks into an outbuilding in the garden, known as the Pigeon Loft (for the obvious reason that a previous owner had used it as a pigeon loft). Julie Hutson, then IP Draughts’ trainee, and now an in-house lawyer at the Wellcome Trust, had one of those desks. IP Draughts and the Draughtatrix lived in a caravan in the garden for a year.

Since then, the office has grown, and we now have 12 employees, with another two to start later in the year. It was time to find larger accommodation.

From today, the office is to be found in the top floor of the Manor House, a grand Victorian mansion at Howbery Business Park. Our rooms probably started life as the servants’ bedrooms. The house was built by a Member of Parliament in about 1850; he overreached himself with his building project, and ended up in a debtors’ prison in Oxford. In the mid-twentieth century, the house and its land was acquired by a government research station. Nowadays, the research station is a private company and is also the landlord of numerous companies that have offices and laboratories across the site.

We will have access to some spectacular conference rooms. If you would like us to run meetings there, such as negotiations, mediations or training, please let IP Draughts know. The site also has a restaurant and cafe, a gym and a nursery school.

IP Draughts will continue to use the Shillingford office as a home office, while also maintaining an office at Howbery Park.

The new office address is:

Anderson Law LLP, Manor House, Howbery Park, Benson Lane, Wallingford, Oxfordshire OX10 8BA.

Telephone numbers and email addresses remain unchanged.

UPDATE. Here are some photos of IP Draughts new office, and the view from his window.

 

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Business jibber-jabber

Lawyers are often blamed for writing badly. It is true that some legal text uses jargon, old-fashioned language, Latinisms, long sentences, and other features that are off-putting to someone who is not steeped in the ways of lawyers.

But we are not unique in this. All groups use in-language. Doctors have their jargon, as do IT professionals, and politicians. IP Draughts has a theory that complaints about professional jargon are often really about control. The complainer wants the other party to use jargon that the complainer understands, or thinks they understand, so as to be in control of the dialogue.

IP Draughts has worked with business executives for decades, and he has noticed how they sometimes mangle language in the interests of conveying subtle, multiple messages. This is particularly noticeable with documents such as mission statements and declarations of future strategy.

He came across this example recently on Twitter, from the CEO of a group that employs over 30,000 people:

Our number one strategic priority remains unchanged: the organic development of increasingly sophisticated information-based analytics and decision tools that deliver enhanced value to our customers.

Surprising as it may seem, this is a condensed, and slightly better-written, version of a statement on the company’s website.

If this statement were a clause in a contract, it would fail several tests that IP Draughts has for contract wording. Most obviously, it tries to cram a large number of ideas into a single sentence.

The core of the strategy could be said in a few words: it is to develop “analytics and decision tools”. Of course, you need to understand the jargon to know what an analytics tool or a decision tool is, or what is the difference between the two.  When you learn that the company’s businesses include publishing technical information, this part becomes a little clearer. We are in the area of information services, including those that make use of software and the internet. As Wikipedia puts it:

Analytics is the discovery, interpretation, and communication of meaningful patterns in data; and the process of applying those patterns towards effective decision making.

The company could be accused of using jargon in using the phrase “analytics and decision tools”, but this is not really the focus of IP Draughts’ criticism. He is more concerned about the many other points that are crammed into the strategy statement. He would paraphrase these as:

  1. They have other strategies, but this is their top one.
  2. They have had this one for some time, so it remains unchanged.
  3. They are going to develop their tools “organically”. Not sure what this means. Gradual enhancement of features rather than buying in new products?
  4. Their products will become “increasingly sophisticated”. Not sure what this means. Adding features to their products? Dropping stuff if it is too simple?
  5. Their tools will be “information based”. IP Draughts assumes that they mean they will continue to focus on products and services in the field of publishing rather than, say, running nuclear power stations.
  6. They will “deliver enhanced value” to their customers. This is a horrible and meaningless expression. It virtue-signals that they are thinking about the customer’s perspective.

It is also noticeable that this strategy focuses on “development” of tools, rather than exploitation of those that they have already. Perhaps the intended reader will take that as read, and will be more interested in the new, sexy stuff that will “deliver enhanced value” to the company’s shareholders.

IP Draughts has no complaint with the sentiments behind this wordy statement of strategy; they are for the board of the company to decide. But as a piece of prose it is dull and nearly unreadable.

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Why you must get an IP assignment from your university employee

This article is nearly 8 years old, but it is still relevant. “hereby assigns and agrees to assign” is a useful but imperfect shorthand expression when purporting to assign future IP.

IP Draughts

This posting is prompted partly by the important and recent decision of the US Supreme Court in the Stanford v Roche case, in which the court considered the provisions of the Bayh-Dole Act.  There are two, linked themes:

  1. What was decided in the above case, and some possible implications for the drafting of assignments between an academic and his or her employing university, particularly but not only in the US; and
  2. The practice of some UK universities to rely on section 39 of the UK Patents Act 1977 as the basis for saying that employee inventions belong to the university, so that a separate, written assignment is not required.

First, the US case.  The full name of the case is Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University v Roche Molecular Systems Inc, et al.  The Supreme Court’s decision (number 09-1159) is dated June 6, 2011.  Chief Justice…

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