After spending Hanukkah with the kids, visiting museums, nature reserves and archaeological sites, lighting candles with the grandparents, I needed a holiday. The opportunity came along with the IP Summit in Paris organized by Premier Cercle, where I spent a pleasant 3 days socializing with other leading patent attorneys from around the world.
Paris is a lovely city, with wide boulevards and impressive architecture. The conference was held in the historic Chambre de Commerce de Paris, a beautiful building with granite wall panels, historic tapestries and impressive chandeliers. The lifelike statue of a girl in the garden seemed a little under-dressed for the single digit temperatures, and was enough to give one goose pimples.
Everything was gastronomique magnifique, skewered on a cocktail stick. I understand that the French invented la forchette (the fork), but if conference food is the sort of stuff they eat at home, one wonders why they bothered. Nothing substantive, but everything extremely attractively presented.
The organizers kindly arranged Kosher food for me. Each day I was presented with three trays of finger food. There were odd combinations like pineapple wrapped with smoked salmon, savoury macaroons stuck together with some oily gunge – foie de gras? There were egg mayonnaise and smoked salmon finger sandwiches wrapped in seaweed. Colourful, weird, not particularly tasty but uber-sophisticated.
The deserts were wonderful; miniature chocolate and coffee éclairs, tiny lemon tarts, strawberry desserts and colorful macaroons. Where in the US, people would have been swigging beer, here there was liberal quantities of champagne. However, soft drinks were also available.
The first two days were devoted to patents, particularly the unitary patent and the European Patent Court. I noticed that my colleagues seemed to consider themselves, Irish, Scottish, French, Belgian, German, Cypriot or Polish. Although there were a fair number of patent attorneys and lawyers from one country, working in another, no one described him or herself as European. There was worry about the large percentage of candidates from Germany. It seemed to me that like International football matches, the judge or referee should be from a third nation. Presumably, where a US non practicing entity sues a European based company, the judge should be from Africa, the Far East or Israel.
The trademark sessions were the usual type of thing. There were some interesting sessions on enforcement at customs, etc. I noted that the issues our international clients with leading brands had in Israel, were similar to the problems in other jurisdictions, with customs and the courts offering similar resolutions.
I had asked the conference organizers to put the boxes of special PCTeabags in the conference bag, but they elected to put them out in a pyramid on a table. The table was, however, centrally located. I rearranged the boxes into an Eifel Tower, and was gratified with the speed at which they were snapped up. Most handouts wee the usual pens and pencils, etc. Notably, the Scottish centered international European firm Mergatroyd & ©ompany was giving out miniatures of a 12 year old single malt, taking the “have a drink on me” idea one step further. I was a little put out with them ripping off my © sign, and in maroon too. Suppose I should have patented the idea. Actually, I do honestly recommend the quality, organic green tea with spearmint for treating the stress of last minute filings, but adding a wee dram of the Scottish nectar t the brew does no harm at all. Since I had to shift the boxes of tea or take home, I couldn’t attend as many lectures as I would have liked.
The first evening reception was on a boat cruise along the Seine. There was an excellent fiddler and pianist combination, who had a pleasant repertoire. More finger food and champagne. We saw a lot of bridges and other impressive architecture. Apart from Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, etc. I didn’t recognize very much. A tour guide would have been appreciated. What was clear however, was that the French architects and engineers have a very good sense of proportion and balance.
The second evening finished with a reception at the museum of IP and counterfeiting. This featured a design section showing packages over the past century, with bottles and crown caps replaced by aluminium cans, tetrapacks for long life milk and orange juice and similar developments. There was also a scary display of fake items, from perfume to clothing to shoes, to cat food to kinder chocolate, to software DVDs and movies, all housed in a lovely 17th century building. There were also art décor statues, Mark Chaggal prints and other more upmarket fakes.
Fake sunscreen reminded me of a problem we’ve had in Israel, and fake Evian mineral water reminded me of the Only Fools and Horses Xmas Special: Peckham Spring. It occurred to me that the Israel Patent Office could perhaps expand their display from ancient technology to include modern counterfeiting.
The final evening reception was held in the Pernod offices, where I was surprised to learn that premium whiskeys, both Scottish malts and bends, and Irish blends were owned by the French, as were Havana rum, Absolut vodka and other drinks. Whist sipping a Jameson Irish whiskey which I was reliably informed by the representative of the scotch whiskey association, was triple distilled and thus totally different from the Scottish highland and island whiskeys, I knew that I’d never be able to tell in a blind tasting and suspect that there are other ignoramii. Would it really matter if the appellation of origin were lost?
My hotel was a cheap single room on the fourth floor of a tourist dive without an elevator. The room was 50 Euros a night, so couldn’t complain that the mattress was hard, which one of my friends staying centrally did; then he was paying three times the price.
Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World Fair, the Eiffel tower is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world with 7.1 million people ascending it in 2011. Covered as it was with flashing lights, it seemed to me that the iconic tower was a sort of reusable Xmas tree. It does seem to be a phallic symbol, like church spires and minarets. Notably, the Notre Dame Cathedral in its gargoyal splendor, has two towers without spires. It was never finished! The other great Parisian monument, close to the conference building, is the famous Arc de Triumphe. I used to think it was a tribute to Ms Phelps Jacob’s great invention that provides support to half the nation. Apparently, this is not the case. Although maybe it was a tribute to Josepine’s cleavage, it was not actually erected to celebrate the brassiere, which was invented over a century later.
One of the French patent attorneys noted reading that there is the largest exodus of French Jews since the Second World War, and asked me about it. Whilst there is certainly a wave of French immigration to Israel that is inspired by antisemitism back in France, personally I wandered around the streets in a skullcap without feeling uncomfortable. I did, however, note the bullet proof glass, XRay machines and extra security at the Holocaust Memorial and at the Jewish Museum (both worth visiting) which presumably is justified and is more than I am used to. However, I was staying in a cheap pension near Gard d’Est, not the nicest area, but the African immigrants seemed at least as friendly as those living around the South Tel Aviv Bus Station. Some panhandlers that I ignored made some remarks about Palestine, but my French vocabulary was too limited to be offended.
Paris is a beautiful, fairly compact city with great architecture and nice window shopping. The metro is easy to follow, and people manage to look chic, even in their winter clothes. I had a great time.
The sniffer dog went wild at the airport. It turned out that he was addicted to spearmint. After checking through my case, I walked through passport control and then after assuring the douanier that I wasn’t carrying anything sharp, I had my hand luggage inspected. Ha! he said triumphantly as he pulled a die-cast 15 cm Eiffel Tower from my backpack. I could see the headlines: Hijack attempt by Top Israel Patent Attorney foied by Inspector Clouseau.
After a quarter of an hour of useless arguing, I agreed to throw away the present I’d promised my daughter. I got dressed again, and went up to the duty free section where I bought a replacement. Go figure.
We saw Argo on the ElAl flight back to Israel, and I wondered if on Iranian Airlines, anti Israel propaganda was shown.
Alongside the flower bouquet dispensing machine that I’ve been trying to patent for one of my clients, I was pleasantly surprised to see Adv Tal Band, head of the AIPPI in Israel waiting for me at the airport. It transpired that he was actually waiting his son’s return from the Far East. It did give me an opportunity to complain at the quality of Shin Horowitz sponsored conference back pack, I’d been using. My teabags were meant to be disposable. His bag was supposed to last a little longer. Ah well.
I could not get home. Ofra is under 50 cm of snow, and Jerusalem is cut off. I went to my parents in Netanya for the weekend, and although it snowed there as well, it didn’t settle. My olive, fig, apple and pear trees have all broken under the weight of snow, but at least the roof is OK.