This is a report of the book launch of Dr Shlomit Yanisky-Ravid’s opus “Intellectual Property at the Workplace: Theoretical and Comparative Perspectives, by Dr Shlomit Yanitzky-Ravid”. קניין רוחני בעסודה: תיאוריה, מעשה ומשפט השווה – ד”ר שולמית יניצקי-רביד. I have a peer-reviewed book review waiting publication, and can only blog that once it has publishes, at least on-line, so this article focuses on the event, not the book.
Dr Miriam Biton once accused me of only blogging about refreshments at conferences. This is not true. I try to cover events for IP enthusiasts who forgot to attend, and do try to cover the less substantive aspects of events as well. Nevertheless, I had worked through lunch and the reception started at 4:30, so I was grateful that it included savoury sandwiches. They weren’t very exciting or tasty, but were filling, and I didn’t get home until gone 10 PM, so it was appreciated. Most were short on filling, but one with avocado wasn’t, and I had changed into a white shirt for the occasion. Ah well.
There were perhaps 30 people at the reception, and about 100 at the event. This number included students. In an email exchange with me Dr Shlomit Yanisky-Ravid claimed 80 registered participants, so perhaps we should accept this figure without quibbling.
WORDS OF WELCOME
The evening opened with words of welcome from the Dean of the Law faculty, Professor Amichai Cohen, who noted how active Dr Shlomit Yanisky-Ravid is very busy in a wide range of activities including organizing events, student trips abroad, lecturing, publishing, directing the Center for Comparative Law and other work for the ONO Academic College.
For some reason, the compere, Dr Rivi Cohen, who otherwise did a fine job, introduced the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, as Adv. Assa Kling. I suppose a law academic considers that being an attorney-at-law is a major achievement, but there are 50,000 of them in Israel, and only one Commissioner of Patents at a time. The job description of Commissioner of Patents is approximately on a par with being a District Court Judge. As the commissioner had recently published a ruling relating to Service Inventions that had related extensively to the book, but ruled that even the author admitted that the current state of the Law was not in accordance with her views, I was eager to hear what he had to say. Diplomatically, he spoke about the collaboration between the Patent Office and WIPO that Shlomit was involved with, and didn’t relate much to the book other than noting that it was in the Patent Office library. He also noted that there was an unprecedented 8 cases before the committee for employee compensation, so the book was timely and important.
Judge Elisheva Barak Ussoskin, the Emeritus Labour Court Deputy President, read a speech that fairly summed up the book. She then apologized for not staying, but her grandchildren had ballet, which she felt was more important. For a words of praise presentation, this was pardonable, but subsequent speakers in the first panel, made up of academics and colleagues of Shlomit from ONO, also spoke and then walked out.
THE ACADEMIC PANEL
Former Accountant General, Professor Yaron Zlikha, raised some interested points concerning non-patentable inventions by civil servants, and argued that giving a large percentage royalty to civil servants who were inventors of patents discriminated against their colleagues who may have made lucrative innovations for the government that are not patentable. He gave, as an example, an action he had initiated that had generated two billion shekels for the communal pot, arguing that giving inventors 35% royalties and not giving him even 3.5 parts per million, seemed a little unfair. Professor Shlomo Noy, Head of the Health Services Department at ONO then spoke. He countered some of Dr Zlikha’s comments. Both senior ONO lecturers spoke and walked out. Not taking questions from the floor is one thing, but not staying for the break to take questions individually, or to hear other panelists comments, seemed to me to be bad manners. If the moderator had forced them to react to each other’s comments, a meaningful debate might have ensued. (I felt that the moderator, who mentioned Shlomit’s important chapter on gender, was mostly qualified by virtue of being a female academic).
Professor Orly Lovel gave a perspective based on corporate law. She had a lot to say and limited time, so gabbled somewhat. Her last point was valid, though hardly original. She noted that the labour Laws in California which allowed workers to change companies and take knowledge with them had generated Silicon Valley, whereas the Massachusetts State Law had prevented a similar phenomenon from growing up around Boston, despite the top universities there. I Accept that this is good evidence that pro-worker legislation is good for the technological progress. However, I am not sure that it is good for companies or inventors. In other words, the question of how this redistributes wealth was not addressed.
THE PROFESSIONAL PANEL
After the break, there was a panel chaired by Advocate and Notary Calia Klein, the head of the labour law group at Pearl Cohen. Having experienced first hand of how her firm treats employees, it was interesting to discover that they have an Employment Law group, and are thus presumably aware that there are laws in this area. There were some solid but not particularly inspiring comments by Adv. Yossi Markovitch and by Adv. David Gilat. David noted that the employer-employee relationship is part of Patent Law, not Labour Law and felt that this was appropriate.
Adv. Eran Bareket made some interesting and, for me, thought provoking comments about forum shopping regarding service inventions, noting that the book hadn’t related to this issue. He pointed out that one can file suit in the labour courts, the District Court, with the Commissioner of Patents in opposing a patent as being the true inventor or owner, or with the committee for compensation for service inventions. He gave examples of where cases had gone to each forum and considered the state of affairs problematic, as the rulings would perhaps be influenced more by the forum, than by the issues.
Mr Amir Raveh, an inventor and investor in start-ups acknowledged no legal training and feigned not to have understood the terminology used by the other panelists. He stated that whereas a few years ago,start-ups were expected to have patent applications, nowadays, this is no longer the case and the issue when selling companies is human resources. He did not seem able to explain how one can sell human resources though. Employees can move companies, and non-compete clauses are rarely enforceable. He seemed to be involved in the currently trendy smartphone App field. I wonder how one can prevent competitors from under-cutting without patents?
The evening concluded with Dr Yanisky-Ravid thanking just about everyone, receiving a bouquet of flowers from a student groupie, and lots of photos of her posing with speakers and family members who had turned up in force to show their support.