On July 5th, 2009, the AIPA, the professional body representing patent attorneys in Israel will be holding a General Meeting and electing a new committee.
All paid up members of the organization in good standing can put forwards their candidature for the committee, which comprises a chairperson or president, a secretary, a treasurer and two others.
The General Meeting was supposed to occur on 26 May 2009, but was postponed with no reason given. I suspect a number of members were holidaying in the US after INTA and found the timing inconvenient.
In May, our treasurer, Dr. Gal Ehrlich, sent a reminder for members to pay their dues for 2009 or else they would not be allowed to vote in the elections. Ehrlich is correct; the fiscal year of the organization is January 1 through December 31. However, in November 2008, members were asked to pay membership for the Jewish year 5949, which ran from 1 October 2008 to September 2009. We are not sure how many people paid twice, but as my friend and colleague Dr. Erez Gur points out, being asked to pay an annual membership in November (Heshvan) for year 5949 which started less than four weeks earlier, was misleading to say the least. I have a sneaky suspicion that membership reminders were sent out in November and May as patent examinations occur twice a year and thus there is a new crop of licensed practitioners twice a year.
I don’t remember when I paid my dues and may have paid once, twice, or not at all. I suspect I am not the only member in this situation. I would hate to be deprived of my right to vote because of this misunderstanding.
The purpose of the AIPI is to promote the profession and to represent it before government bodies, to run educational events and to ensure professional standards of patent interns. I do not know what the current committee has achieved in these areas and hope that the General Meeting will include a review of recent activities.
There are a number of areas where I would like to see the AIPI be more active. Here are a dozen ideas:
- Israel is criticized for having a judiciary that is ignorant of IP. There is probably room for specialist IP courts or at least training for judges. I’ve found a broad consensus for specialist IP courts amongst senior patent attorneys, litigators and Patent Office staff. I would like the organization to consider lobbying for such courts.
- Various Arab countries refuse to allow Israeli companies to file patents and trademarks and require foreign entities to sign a declaration that they do not do business with Israel. I think the professional organization should lobby WIPO and should campaign for such States to be expelled from International IP treaties.
- Israel signed but never implemented the Madrid Protocol for Trademarks. This makes multi-national trademark filing expensive for Israeli companies and may deter foreign entities from filing in Israel as they have to pay separately for each class. The AIPI should perhaps rally for implementation.
- Section 20 of the Israel Bar Law makes it illegal for anyone other than an Attorney-in-Law to offer legal services – apart from the exceptions listed in Section 21. One of the exceptions is patent attorneys who can provide IP related services.
- Certainly patent attorneys can help register patents and trademarks, but it is not clear what additional services are appropriate for patent attorneys to provide and what ones are the domain of attorneys-at-law. For example, can patent attorneys represent trademark owners at customs? Can patent attorneys give an infringement opinion or is this a legal service for a lawyer to provide?
- A licensed Patent Attorney has a science or engineering degree, two years on-the-job training and has passed theoretical and practical exams. There are a plethora of self-styled IP Consultants or IP Managers, offering IP services. Some of these were paralegals or trainees and some have some on-hands knowledge. Such “experts” are both damaging to the profession and dangerous to the public. The organization should take action against them.
- Sole practitioners find it difficult to get professional liability insurance, and the organization, could, like the Israel Law Bar, negotiate on behalf of its members.
- Despite a peace treaty and normalized political relations with Jordan, the Association of Jordanian Attorneys expels members who represent Israeli firms. I think this is unacceptable and believe that the AIPI should be at the forefront of fighting this issue.
- International IP meetings, such as the forthcoming AIPPI meeting in Argentina falls on a Jewish Festival. Consequently Observant Jews cannot attend. This seems to happen regularly. I think the organization representing practitioners of a Jewish State should voice a token complaint on behalf of practitioners.
- The Commissioner of Patents drafted standards for internship, but, in my opinion, despite drafting reasonable regulations that were long overdue, had no right to do so. The AIPI should have done this long ago and it is one of the aims of the organization. They have not done so.
- Israel appears on the US Special 301 Watch List. The AIPI should help the various Govt. Ministries combat this.
- In the UK, US, China and Japan, there are government ministers of intellectual property. I think the AIPI should lobby for a similar position in Israel.
- In 2007 there was a first reading of an amendment to the Israel Patent Law 1967 to have automatic publication of applications after 18 months. Nothing has happened since. The patent office scans applications on filing so this could be implemented. I think Israel should conform to the standards of other developed countries in this regard.
- Lebanon is claiming IP rights to Middle Eastern dishes such as felafel, hummus, tehinna and tabbouleh. Israel is a major exporter of hummus to the States and Europe, and the industry employs a large number of Arabs and workers from rural areas with high unemployment. If Israel is prevented to market hummus as hummus, but has to refer to it as chickpea salad, the economic ramifications could be serious.