FICPI, The International Federation of Intellectual Property Attorneys

President’s Monthly Letter - February 2019

01st March, 2019

Dear FICPI Family

A couple of months into the new year and FICPI is already buzzing with activity. 

The Vienna Forum, 9-12 October 2019

As I write from my new ‘half-partition’ in my new firm’s office in Bath, the brochures for the 18th FICPI Open Forum are about to hit your desks.  The Open Forum is FICPI’s ‘marquee’ event, and ever since the first Forum in 1993, its three-stream format has proven very popular with delegates.  This year, the 18th Open Forum will be held for the first time in spectacular Vienna; the city of Ludwigs and Wolfgangs.  For all the patent attorneys, I refer of course, to Bolzmann and Pauli – not to mention Beethoven and Mozart.  The FICPI Open Forum is guaranteed to stimulate your intellect and excite your emotions. 

Over the 26 years since the first Open Forum, things have changed a little.  Now, our popular IP Practice Management Stream takes centre stage once again, with sessions like “Finance 101: Learning about the economic machinery of your IP firm”, “Key performance indicators: Improving your firm’s introspection” and “Quality assurance: Documenting and improving your firm’s workflows”, all of great importance for managing our firms to success in an ever-increasingly competitive environment.  Our thanks must go once again to Patrick Erk (DE), and his team on FICPI’s Professional Excellence Commission, for devising yet another appealing Practice Management Stream.  The Patent and Trade Mark Streams will have to work hard to keep up and work hard they have, under the excellent leadership of Michael Caine (AU), Lena Shen (CN) and Toni Ashton (CA). 

The problem of assuring priority rights has become even more acute in Europe following revocation of the Broad Institute’s European patent for the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 and the lessons to be learned from that catastrophe will be explored in detail by expert speakers.  Other sessions will cover SPCs, the patenting of artificial intelligence, 3D human organs and other emerging technologies and “Being a patent attorney in the XXI Century”. 

Meanwhile the Trade Marks Stream will investigate the “Trialogue between IP owners, shops online and platforms”, recognising potential conflicts in IP law, and recent decisions affecting IP licensing, amongst a real treasure-trove of other topics.  The whole programme will be topped off with a plenary session dealing with “Protecting Product Configurations in the Current Climate – Practice Tips and Avoiding Potential Pitfalls” from a wide range of different IP perspectives. 

With a social programme that exceeds even FICPI’s usual exacting standards, with events at the Belvedere and the Hofburg, what is there not to like?  We are maintaining registration fees at the same level as they were in 2016 and, recognising that delegates cannot attend sessions that are held in parallel, for the first time, all presentations will be filmed and made available online after the Forum - at no extra charge for registered delegates.  Following recommendations from our Strategic Planning Commission, who have been looking into ways of attracting more younger professionals into FICPI, there will be a range of other initiatives aimed to enhance your experience at the Forum, including bookable lunch tables, subject-matter specific lunch tables, a buddy system for first-time delegates and additional sporting activities such a morning jogging session and a mountain bike tour as one of the options for the excursion (for those who do not fancy a visit to the Spanish Riding School or a trip down the Danube Valley through the Wachau to Melk).

The brochure for the Vienna Forum is available here, and you can register here.  I urge you to do so before the early bird deadline of Friday 28 June 2019.

Lisbon CET & Preparation for the Turin EXCO

Long before we meet in Vienna, we will have the Turin ExCo from 31 March to 4 April.  This will be my first ExCo “in the chair” and I am looking forward to it with a sense of nervousness and excitement.  The preparations are almost complete and there is a full and highly relevant agenda in development. 

The Study & Work Commission (CET) worked hard on its portion of the ExCo agenda over the weekend of 2-3 February in Lisbon, and I would like thank Ana de Sampaio (PT) for her excellent work and assistance in making the arrangements for that meeting and Coleen Morrison (CA), President of the CET, and her executive team for preparing and running the meeting so efficiently.  For those of us from northern Europe and N. America, it was a good opportunity to get away from the snow for a few days.  Apart from preparations for the ExCo, the CET also debated and finalised in short order FICPI’s response to an invitation from the President of the EPO to provide comments on the EPO’s Strategic Plan.  In its response, FICPI urged the EPO to take further steps towards substantive patent law harmonisation; to enhance transparency of procedures and user interactions, including securing true independence from the Office of the Boards of Appeal and reviewing search and examination procedures; establishing stronger synergies between IP offices and the users; proposals for reducing costs and improving access to the patent system and improving the consultation process with users.  A copy of FICPI’s submission, which must now be ratified by the ExCo in Turin, can be viewed here.  It would be remiss of me not to thank Antonio Pizzoli (IT), Chair of the CET Group dealing with European patent matters, for his excellent and very prompt work in putting together such a comprehensive paper in a very short space of time. 

Other submissions approved by the CET and Bureau in Lisbon included comments addressed to the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee in China on draft amendments of Chinese Patent Law.  FICPI expressed concerns at a proposal to extended patent protection only for innovative drugs that are simultaneously applied for listing in Chinese overseas markets (Art. 43), and a proposed requirement for a patentee to have “tried their best” to furnish evidence where the accounts and other materials relating to an infringement that are controlled by the infringer before a court will order the infringer to provide such accounts and materials for the purpose of determining damages (Art. 72). 

Immediately before the CET meeting, members of the Bureau were pleased to have a chance to meet with João Pereira da Cruz (PT), President of ACPI, together with other directors of that association, João Jorge (PT), Ana de Sampaio (PT) and António Corte-Real (PT).  The ACPI is one of the autonomous member associations of FICPI which provides FICPI membership as a benefit of full membership.  A brief report of that meeting by our Deputy Secretary General, Elia Sugranes (ES) can be found here

Official visits and meetings

One of FICPI’s core activities is to provide representation of the IP profession in private practice before official international IP organisations and “to study all administrative or legislative reforms and improvements to international treaties and conventions, with the object of facilitating the exercise by inventors and industrialists of their rights, of increasing their security, and of simplifying procedure or formalities” (FICPI Statutes, Arts. 2.4 and 2.6).  The Strategic Planning Committee has reviewed ways in which the Federation can improve its advocacy on behalf of its members (FICPI Strategic Plan, 2018, Object 1.3). As part of its ongoing work, the CET sent Group 4 Reporter, Christian Wende (DE), to the EPO’s 4th SACEPO EPP (E-Patent Process) meeting at the Hague on 30 January 2019.  Of course, practical issues such as fee payments, online filing and videoconferencing facilities for oral proceedings are of great importance to patent attorneys in practice who, as a group, almost certainly make up the majority of users of such tools and have valuable feedback for the office.  Christian’s report from the meeting will be available on the FICPI website soon.

I am pleased to report that we now have official meetings with the EPO and Boards of Appeal, both scheduled for 12 March 2019, the EUIPO on 19 May 2019 (in Boston to coincide with INTA) and the USPTO on 23 May 2019.  Key topics for discussion with the EPO will include the EPO’s Strategic Plan, erroneously filed elements and parts in PCT, the reorganisation of the EPO, the use of artificial intelligence in EPO operations, UDEC (proposals for deferred examination), the revised opposition procedure and the EPO’s generous sponsorship of the FICPI’s Academy of Education patent drafting courses in Southeast Asia and Latin America.  Agendas for the EUIPO and USPTO meetings are still under construction.  If any member has any suggestions for issues of concern to the members of the profession or their clients that should be taken up with these offices, please contact me at: president@ficpi.org.

FICPI-AIPLA-AIPPI Colloquium on Artificial Intelligence and IP
(28-29 March 2019, Turin)

Immediately prior to the ExCo, FICPI will be co-hosting a high level Colloquium on Artificial Intelligence and IP with our sister organisations, AIPPI and AIPLA.  Preparations for the Colloquium are almost complete and a comprehensive primer prepared by the three co-organiser organisations that deals with the issues involved will be distributed to the delegates this week.  75 delegates are now registered, with representatives from CIPO, CNIPA, EPO, IPOS, PVS, USPTO and WIPO as well as numerous professional associations. Others are expected to register shortly. Members are reminded that there are a few spaces left for those who have an interest in the subject and wish to attend.  If you are interested in attending, please request an invitation here.

Turin EXCO

In just a few weeks, the FICPI Executive Committee will meet in Turin for its first meeting since the Toronto Congress.  As reported above, the CET worked hard on its portion of the agenda during its meeting in Lisbon earlier this month.  In all, there will be six workshops; with two topics for PEC, including IP litigation insurance to continue develop ideas around the FICPI-led proposed insurance product for patent and trade mark owners; the Membership Commission will hold a workshop to brainstorm ideas for FICPI’s constituent national groups to hold more meetings at local level; the Deontology and Statutes Commission will jointly host a workshop looking at the continued relevance of the Lugano Code of Conduct in members’ offices; and the CET will hold two workshops on substantive law topics.  No doubt several of these workshops will generate possible resolutions for the delegates’ consideration.  We will be pleased to welcome a number of members from Jordan as observers to the ExCo to discuss the possible formation of a new national or regional member group. 

The ExCo meeting will be preceded by the usual meetings of the Bureau, Council and CET.  In addition, this year, there will be a further meeting of the Strategic Planning Commission, who will continue to develop initiatives aimed at increasing FICPI’s value as a networking organisation for its members and demonstrating the value of IP attorney to clients, IP offices and other official IP organisations and others.  In connection with the latter, FICPI’s “Project Orange” report is almost ready for publication, and we expect to be able to provide delegates with a first look at the finished article during the ExCo.  Thereafter, it will be distributed to all members.  The final title of the report is “The IP Practitioner, Adding Value to Innovation?” and I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Past President, Peter Huntsman (AU), during whose term Project Orange was kicked off, for his incredibly hard work in getting this effort over the line; not to mention other Past Presidents, John Orange (CA) (after whom the report is named) and Doug Deeth (CA), for their excellent assistance in editing and publishing the final version.  There will also be a workshop for holders of official FICPI positions to learn about the range of online tools that are now available to facilitate and document the Federation’s work.

And as I close my laptop at the end of this month’s president’s report, I reflect that like the ‘half-partitions’ in Abel & Imray’s Bath office which are designed to facilitate communication and collaboration between colleagues, so too is FICPI, at its core, adapted to promote collegiality, support and – in the words of our statutes – “confraternity” amongst the best and brightest IP attorneys of any age, gender, nationality, geographic location or specific area of practice (patents, trade marks, IP litigation, etc.) in private practice throughout the world.  I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible in Vienna later this year (if not sooner!)

Author: Julian Crump

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