Yesterday I enjoyed a pleasant trip down South to attend the WIPO Roving Seminar in Beer Sheva. The drive was pleasant. Negev is very verdant and the ornithology was good, with a lot of storks and black kites and the odd short-toed eagle in evidence. The event started at 9:30, and, with considerably less congestion getting into Beer Sheva than into Tel Aviv, I arrived at 9:15 am at the Carusso Science Park.
Moshe Lemberg, the Senior Program Officer at WIPO who organized the event introduced himself to me and hoped that I would blog about the refreshments. I thought this was a little surprising as the rogelach and burekas were fairly standard fayre but did make a welcome breakfast. Unfortunately however, the 3 litre hot water urn was inadequate to the task and I was unable to make myself a coffee. That had an adverse affect on my concentration during the first part of the program, and I noted that after Dr Daniel Ben Oliel presented the prize for Excelling Academic thesis in various fields of IP [sic] there were three or four competitors who presented brief talks on their papers for the Israel Patent Office Competition, but have no idea what they talked about. The chairs were too comfortable, I’d left home at 7 am and I was too far away from the screen. My neighbor kept nudging me. I suspect I was snoring a little. I went to the bathroom, washed my face and had a coffee (botz, using water from the now refilled urn), and went back in sitting closer to the front. This was a great improvement and I found the sessions interesting, stimulating and enjoyable.
Those wanting a review of the early sessions are respectfully referred to the IPKAT where the Doyen of IP Bloggers, Professor Jeremy Phillips has some insightful and relevant comments. See here. For inciteful and irrelevant ones, read on!
Professor Phillips notes that there were 98 registrants. He was sitting in the back corner and was better situated to count heads than I was. I do try to keep tally on these events however, and did a head count on three occasions throughout the day. I noted 60 in the audience. With 5 rovers from WIPO and a large contingent from the patent office, this was less than impressive. I hope that the Haifa event on Tuesday is better attended, and as the program is largely the same, can highly recommend it.
Mr Matthew Bryan, the director of the PCT Legal Division gave a brief review of the PCT system and recent developments, and the amicable and helpful Dr Michael Bart who heads up the Israel Receiving Office spke about recent changes there. The local Beer Sheva (actually Omer – but who’se counting?)
Mukhtar Patent Attorney, Dr Kfir Luzzatto joined Matthew and Michael, and gave some thoughts on the PCT, how Israel joining the system had affected the profession, and how he views International Search Reports from the Israel Patent Office.
Trademarks and Designs
Ms Debbie Roenning, Director of the Legal Division Madrid Register, Brands and Designs Section (BDS) spoke on Madrid system for trademark registration and then on the Hague system for Design Registration. As well as showing which countries had signed up, she showed which countries were in the process of signing up which was useful. She also had some tips regarding tailoring goods for different jurisdictions, translating the list of goods into Hebrew, adding countries to an existing application and varying classes per country that were very informative.
Ms Anat Levi Sofer spoke briefly about trademarks and Madrid from the perspective of the Israel Patent Office and considered Israel joining Madrid a great success. Ms Ronit Bazik Sofer, head of trademarks at Reinhold Cohn represented the private sector and noted that she had been apprehensive of Israel joining Madrid and indeed, there had been a drop off in work since Israel joined, but with increased prosecution, things had evened out.
Knowing the official figures regarding trademarks filed directly into Israel and via Madrid, and Madrid marks originating in Israel, I think that both Ms Anat Levi Sofer and Ms Ronit Bazik Sofer were being less than objective. (Reinhold Cohn has too large a market segment for their practice not to follow the official statistics). Israel is very good at creating technology, but is less successful at launching international brands. Madrid has not been widely used by Israeli companies. It is possible that with additional prosecution resulting from more trademark applications designating Israel, workers in the trademark office and in private practice feel that they are busy. However, without the lucrative filing and with renewals handled centrally or by bucket shops, the revenues generated are lower that revenues once were. This is true of both patent office revenue and income to IP firms.
There was an opportunity to ask questions. In her first slide, Ms Roenning had shown various recent Israel trademarks filed by Israelis. The slide also included WIPO’s logo. It was tempting to ask why they had chosen what look’s like a roll of toilet paper, but I decided that it would unnecessarily cheapen the event.
WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center
Mr Matthew Bryan gave a presentation regarding WIPO’s arbitration and mediation services. It was certainly worthwhile reminding those present that there are alternative methods of dispute resolution, and that going to court is not the only option.
Mr. Yoshiyuki Takagi spoke about WIPO’s databases such as WIPO Green and WIPO Re:Search. This brought some useful online tools to the attention of participants.
We were pleasantly surprised that WIPO / Patent Office had laid on a sumptuous buffet of ravioli, pizza, macaroni, cheese rolls, garlic bread, quiches, cheeses and salads. Had this been a couple of days after Shavuot (Pentacost) this may have seemed more of the same, but after a week of Pesach, noone passed over the opportunity to dine on hametz.
Mr. Paolo Lanteri, the Legal Officer, Copyright Law Division, Culture and Creative Industries Sector, WIPO spoke about the gaming industry. It seems that I was far from the only participant who wasn’t a gamer. I put this down to a combination of the audience being middle aged nerds.
It was fascinating to learn that the gaming industry is more significant financially than feature films and music combined. Happily people still read.
It seems that protecting IP in games is a complicated issue. The talk was very informative.
Questions were solicited and I made a case for moving over to registration of copyright and shorter periods of protection since I consider the system as broken. Jeremy Phillips took issue with my position and argued that most people in practice can do most of what they want and that the system does give redress for abuses. We continued arguing in the car back to Jerusalem.
The WIPO representatives and the Commissioner got on stage together as a panel. It was reassuring with INTA coming up, to note that my charcoal suit is apparently in fashion for IP events.
Dr Luzzatto took the opportunity to ask about Arab countries boycotting Israel, giving the example of Jordan that, despite a peace agreement, in practice the legal profession there won’t represent Israelis.
Mr Matthew Bryan first dodged the question by noting that Jordan was not a signatory to the PCT. As Kfir would not let things go at that, he rather sensibly pointed out that WIPO strongly condemns Arab countries discriminating against Israel, and writes strongly worded letters noting that such countries are not living up to their international obligations. He did, however, point out WIPO does not have enforcement police and their influence is very limited.
The Commissioner noted that Israel could theoretically refuse to allow applications originating from countries that don’t accept Israeli trademark or patent applications, but that the Israel Patent Office decided not to adopt this policy.
Retired US patent attorney Bruce Lilling noted that Taiwan, an important industrial nation was kicked out of the PCT mechanism at China’s request.
For those who missed the Beer Sheva event yesterday, I recommend trying to attend the largely parallel but slightly shorter program in Haifa tomorrow. See here.
Rambling Digression (its my blog so I can do what I like)
I note that Ms Debbie Roenning (who also wore a trouser suit, but not a tie) is the head of the Brands and Designs Section which shares the unfortunate acronym of BDS, the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ Movement, the allegedly pro Palestinian, but actually notoriously hypocritical and anti-Semitic international movement.
On the way to the conference, I noted Sodastream’s new factory in Beer Sheva. They moved from the Industrial Area by Maale Adumim (a satellite town of Jerusalem on the road towards Jericho) in response to vicious propaganda abroad. In the Maale Adumim factory, Sodastream provided jobs to West Bank Arabs and was a model of co-existence. Forced to relocate, the primary sufferers are the West Bank Arabs.
WIPO is one of the least anti-Israel organs of the UN. I think it might have been very worthwhile for them to have invited Jordanian, Palestinian and Egyptian IP professionals, both government and private, to the event. I am on good terms with professional colleagues in all these jurisdictions, and with others in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, who read this blog, and chat amicably with me at INTA, AIPPI and other international conferences. Peace is made by trade.
Of course, Israel is not the only country to have been boycotted. To advance U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives, the U.S. maintains laws and regulations that impose economic sanctions against certain countries, individuals, and entities (the “U.S. Sanctions Program”). 31 C.F.R. § 501 et seq. The Office of Foreign Asset Control (“OFAC”) at the Department of the Treasury manages the U.S. Sanctions Program. The U.S. Sanctions Program prohibits U.S. nationals and U.S. companies from doing business in embargoed or sanctioned countries and from doing business with individuals or entities subject to U.S. sanctions laws and regulations. At various times, the US has forbidden their nationals to register trademarks in Cuba and has also failed to uphold Cuban trademarks. Whether or not human rights are more mistreated by Castro’s regime in Cuba or by the US in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp is not clear.