Earlier today, I was privileged to attend a one day conference on Patent Law developments, co-hosted by the Hebrew University and the Israel Patent Authority.
Professor Martin Adelman of George Washington University spoke interestingly, entertainingly, but rather academically, providing the background to the first to invent and civil trial by jury against the record of the American War of Independence and the French Revolution. He had some strong criticisms of the hot-off-the-press Prometheus ruling as well.
Professor Adelman’s presentation was in English as he doesn’t speak Hebrew, and he recommended that Dr Miriam Bitton and Dr Amir Khoury spoke English too, as was fitting for an International level conference. However, the Israeli lecturers decided to speak Hebrew, a decision that worryingly seemed to generate an audible sigh of relief from the block of Israel Patent Office staff in the audience.
Dr Miriam Bitton gave a general overview of patent developments in Israel, and noted that the commissioner had published the guidelines to Examiners, making the examination more transparent. She also noted that software patents were now allowable and briefly mentioned the pending amendment to allow automatic publication at 18 months. She particularly related to the Merck decision and the various attempts to amend the Israel law that followed.
Dr Amir Khoury spoke with authority about the attempts to bring about a single unitary European patent with one court for enforcement, and saw the London agreement as a stepping stone in that direction. He noted that the American Invents Act is a further step towards standardization and looked forwards to the day that there would be a single worldwide patent, stating that if exceptions to novelty destroying exhibitions and publications were standardized, a common system was possible. – I expressed some doubts, since in addition to novelty which is indeed objective, there is a requirement for inventive step which is subjective and the cultural differences between examiners in different jurisdictions seem significant. We clashed over TRIPS as well which he sees as an international success but I see as a US bypass of WIPO. Dr Khoury is probably right though, that there is a trend towards standardization and globalization and we will end up with the situation he describes, but it may take longer than he predicts.
After lunch, the Commissioner of Patents Assa Kling spoke. He went back to 500 BCE to refer to a Greek cookery competition where the winner could prevent others from using his recipe for a year, as an early type of patent monopoly, and then meandered through medieval Venice to 18th Century Britain to discuss the historic roots of the patent system. After the history lesson, Adv Assa Kling went on to respond to criticisms from the morning lecturers, specifically Drs Bitton and Khoury. He felt that there was a place for national examination, but devoted a large chunk of his presentation to examining alternatives.
Kling was followed by Amit Mizrachi who discussed the downside of computerization and online submissions in terms of hackability, and the like.
After a further coffee break, where biscuits, brownies and pralines made an appearance, Adv. Tal Band who is the Head of the AIPPI spoke about the amendment to the patent law re 18th month publication, and the possibility of third-party submissions. Tal’s presentation was followed by Howard Poliner from the Ministry of Justice providing his input on the proposed legislation. We understood that the drug development industry wanted to limit the window of opportunity for third-party submissions and also to prevent third parties submitting analyses of the citations. Not surprisingly, the generic drug industry had a different perspective on the issue. Perhaps not surprisingly, it seems that other industries are not lobbying at all.
I note that all the speakers in the afternoon had hair at the sides of their heads and were bald on top. I found myself wondering if this was a result of their seniority, or a causative element in their appointment? I further note that Adv. Arnan Gabrieli who preceded Adv. Tal Band as chairperson of the Israel Division of the AIPPI has a similar pattern of classic male balding.
Another flippant observation is that only the ever formal Dr Amir Khoury and the Commissioner Assa Kling wore neckties. Both wore conservative and tasteful maroon that were reminiscent of my old school tie. The conservatism contrasted nicely with the neckties worn by the speakers at the Bar Ilan event in January, and I found myself wondering if the lecturers had read my blog report on the Bar Ilan conference two months ago, where I noted the ridiculous cravates sported by host Sandy Colb and keynote speaker, Judge Randall Rader.
The refreshments in the hall were fairly good, with Danish in the morning, supplemented with savory pastries at lunchtime, and chocolate brownies and pralines in the afternoon. There was no lunch provided, but with plenty of options at university rates available over the break, this was hardly a problem.
The air-conditioning didn’t work, there was a ‘hamsin’, i.e. a dry hot wind comin in ove the desert from the East, so the air was hot and dust filled, and the coffee was instant. That, coupled with the academic nature of the event, made keeping awake difficult. I apparently was unsuccessful, and snored a couple of times towards the end of the program, and awoke a little befuddled to find that I had disturbed the Commissioner himself.
In general, we think it is very positive that the Hebrew University hosted this with the patent office. Although the program was a little dry and academic, patent attorneys are not exactly unused to academia. Dr Guy Pessach is to be congratulated for assembling a quality and thought-provoking program and in keeping everything running to time.
The turnout was about 60-70, which is about on par for an IP conference that was decidedly academic. However, of these, some 20 or so were from the patent office.
For the caliber of the speakers, it would have been nice to have a larger turnout. There weren’t many practitioners from private practice or industry, and I suspect that to attract them and increase the turnout, it would have been advisable for the organizers to have consulted with one or more practitioners when building the program. I think this could have been done without diminishing from the academic nature of the program.