Always hire people better than you

IP Draughts has usually tried to employ people that he thinks have more innate skills than him, more drive and a better personality. This was illustrated in a wonderful way last night, when IP Draughts’ partner (and former trainee) in Anderson Law, Paul Maclennan, won an award as “volunteer of the year” at the PraxisAuril annual conference.

For those who don’t know, PraxisAuril is the UK membership organisation for people in universities who are involved in interfacing with the commercial world, such as technology transfer managers. To quote the strapline on their website:

Our members enable universities and businesses to work in partnership, sharing research and developing discoveries for the benefit of society and the economy

Paul has been closely involved with the training committee of PraxisAuril, has chaired and spoken at their training courses (including courses that IP Draughts used to teach on) and has helped to train the next generation of trainers. The award is thoroughly deserved.

The award was announced at the gala dinner of the annual conference, which both Paul and IP Draughts attended.  It was a very pleasant surprise to see Paul win, as there was some high quality competition on the short list for the award. Fortunately, Paul had changed into a suit and tie (unlike IP Draughts), so his attire was immaculate!

IP Draughts was attending the conference to provide members with an update on a project being pursued by a PraxisAuril working group that he and Paula Alessandro of Queen Mary Innovation Ltd are co-chairing. Evidence of this presentation (just about) is below! The project is to develop some standard documents for university spin-out transactions, in consultation with representatives of universities and investors. We are nearly at the stage of having a term sheet finalised.

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Goodbye IP Law Committee

It has finally happened. After 13 years as a member of the IP Law Committee of the Law Society of England and Wales, IP Draughts attended his last meeting of the committee yesterday. Law Society rules prevent old lags from outstaying their welcome. He greatly enjoyed his last meeting, even more than he enjoyed his first, in 2006.

The committee is in very good hands with Carolyn Pepper of Reed Smith as chair. At our annual dinner, which followed yesterday’s meeting, we had a very interesting discussion on some of the barriers to inclusion and diversity, led by our guests from IP Inclusive – Susi Fish of Boult Wade Tennant, Joanna Conway of Norton Rose, and Andrea Brewster, the founder of IP Inclusive and a former president of CIPA.

If you are at the stage of wondering whether to pursue a career in IP, this recent article by two of the committee members – Madeleine Richards and Karmen Koh Allen – is worth a read.

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Birthday honours for IP

Congratulations to Hector MacQueen, Professor of Private Law at the University of Edinburgh. He has been awarded a CBE for services to legal scholarship, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2019.

IP Draughts has come across Professor MacQueen as an IP specialist who has contributed to several public projects in the IP field, most notably as a member of the Scottish Law Commission. He is delighted to see Prof MacQueen’s substantial contribution to IP scholarship recognised.

With that exception, it is slim pickings in the Birthday Honours for IP or technology transfer, or indeed for law. Leaving aside awards for law enforcement, and for civil servants involved in the law, the most notable entry that IP Draughts found when searching for “law” was an award for services to lawn bowls. Congratulations to Tony Allcock, former world champion.

 

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Another step up the ladder

The 2019 edition of IAM Patent 1000 was published earlier this week. It is the only international set of rankings that focuses exclusively on patent lawyers and their firms.

Reading the names in the UK chapters of this publication prompts IP Draughts to reflect on something that is both banal and deeply personal: how, as professionals, we move up through the ranks, achieve greater or lesser degrees of success over a few decades, and eventually retire. Each fresh edition of a publication such as IAM Patent 1000 confirms this seemingly inevitable progression. People that IP Draughts respects and likes, such as Gill Grassie and Philip Westmacott, have retired in recent years, apparently at the height of their professional prowess. It is regrettable that there is no obvious career track into one’s mid-seventies for IP solicitors, unlike barristers who often become High Court judges, and sometimes end up in the Court of Appeal or (in the single case of David Kitchin) in the Supreme Court.

For the 2019 edition of IAM, IP Draughts is delighted to see that his partner, and former trainee, Lisa Allebone PhD is, once again, recommended as a leading UK practitioner for IP transactions. He hopes to see other deserving colleagues recommended in future editions.

IP transactions course

Several of IP Draughts’ stalwart colleagues on the annual UCL IP transactions course (which has been running now for 7 years) are recommended, including:

  • Mark Lubbock
  • Chris Shelley
  • Sally Shorthose
  • Matthew Warren

Book collaborators

He is also delighted to see that several of his international collaborators on his book on pharmaceutical agreements continue to be recommended, including:

  • Pamela Cox (USA – Illinois)
  • Christine Kanz (Germany)

BioLaw Europe

Another source of connections are the members of BioLaw Europe, an association of European lawyers that IP Draughts chairs. Members who feature in IAM include:

  • Stefan Kohler (Switzerland)
  • Denis Schertenlieb (France)

Bristows colleagues

It is remarkable, to IP Draughts’ mind, that so many of the patent litigators recommended in IAM are people whom he remembers as trainees or junior associates during the 7 years he spent at Bristows. Many of them are now leading lights at other firms. They include:

  • Simon Ayrton
  • Michael Burdon
  • Neil Coulson
  • Ralph Cox
  • Mike Gilbert
  • Penny Gilbert
  • Paul Harris
  • David Knight
  • Tim Powell
  • Justin Watts

The length of this list is testament to Bristows’ ability to recruit talented lawyers, in this case mostly during the 1980s and early 1990s. The firm continues to be a powerhouse of IP talent. But just think how much more dominant it might have been in the market today, if it had held on to some of the people in the above list. A strong culture is to be commended, but so is openness to new ideas and personalities.

Other names on the IAM lists (UK and overseas) are familiar from former dealings on transactions or policy work. It would be tedious to list them all.

Not appearing in the IAM lists is no disgrace – there are many talented lawyers that IP Draughts knows who would be at home in the company mentioned above.

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