Yesterday I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Israel Patent Attorneys Association. The event, as ever, was held in Zionist House of America, in Tel Aviv.
The attendance was relatively high for this type of event, with maybe 80 – 100 participants at the beginning. However, many left after the lectures and before the General Meeting.
Before the AGM part of the proceedings, there were two speakers: the Deputy Legal Advisor to the Government on civil issues, Adv. Erez Kaminitz and the Commissioner, Asa Kling.
Adv. Erez Kaminitz spoke on “Legislation, How an Idea Becomes a Statute”. Kaminitz used the metaphor of drafting a patent application and the prosecution process to illustrate the legislative process. This was an interesting analogy that didn’t quite work. What was clear was that although he obviously knew his subject and was qualified to speak on it, he didn’t understand much about patent drafting or prosecution. There was nothing new to anyone with a law degree or an interest in politics. I am not sure to what extent the material is covered in High School Civics as I didn’t study in High School in Israel, but I suspect amongst the patent attorneys present there were few who found the explanation enlightening. It seemed as though Kaminitz felt that the audience needed something that they could latch on to so that they could follow the legislative process. This is not the case. As a group, patent attorneys are highly educated and used to being exposed to new ideas. I found the analogy patronizing and unnecessary.
It seems that the elections are holding up legislation I had intended to cast my vote on the burning IP issues, but it seems that none of the parties running for the Knesset have IP policy in their manifestos and patents, trademarks and design legislation is simply not high on the agenda of any of the political parties.
The commissioner Asa Kling spoke about transparency and partnership, and gave a sneak preview of the Israel filing and prosecution statistics for patents, designs and trademarks for 2014. The absolute numbers of new applications are very close to those for last year, which hopefully indicates that the downwards trend of recent years has flattened out.
We discovered the low level of feedback that the patent office receives when it asks for public opinion. It does appear that feedback is earnestly solicited, and I really should try to formally respond more often, and not just blog my musings.
Adv. Kling showed us various guides and other material on the website and chided us for not visiting or referring clients. He explained that attempts to provide real time information were hampered by protection mechanisms in place to prevent cyber attacks. Nevertheless, he was proud of the examiner guidelines and other material available for review and felt that the level of transparency was higher than for other government bodies.
Like many of my colleagues, I have advised clients to submit their PCT applications for International Searches (ISRs) with the Israel Patent Office, mostly because it is cheap. I have been pleasantly surprised with the results and, where the results have been favorable, clients have generally been happy. What I don’t know is whether the Israel Patent Office has done an objectively good job, or whether the EPO will find additional art that the Israel Patent Office has missed. I’ve filed national phases for cases that have ISRs from the Israel Patent Office, and am waiting to see what foreign patent offices uncover. It was fascinating to learn that the Commissioner and presumably the examiners at the Israel Patent Office are also eagerly awaiting European Supplementary Search Reports and Examination of corresponding family members to PCT applications that the Israel Patent Office has processed as an International Search and Examination Office. In other words, they have similar considerations.
I discovered that to date, the Israel Patent Office has searched about 30 PCT applications for the USPTO and, although authorized to provide a similar service to the Georgian patent office, do date, have yet to do so. 30 applications originating in the US is a number that I can relate to, as is nothing whatsoever from Georgia. It was interesting seeing the similarities and differences between our respective practices.
We discovered that the Israel Patent Office has a Facebook account which we were invited to visit and to ‘like’. It reminded me that some years ago, the EPO invited me to exchange links with them.
The committee was friendly and seemed to be actually thanking the members for coming. This was refreshing. The actual AGM business wasn’t very interesting.
We discovered that no progress had been made on setting up a website. Veteran Patent Attorney Daniel Freimann made the eminently reasonable suggestion for the organization to set up a mediation service for settling disputes between members. The idea was unfortunately ignored.
All resolutions passed unanimously or at least overwhelmingly. There was only one position (that of a member of the overseer committee) which was contested. Here after some reminding, Einav Zilber, the Secretary of the IPAA, requested that those who were only trainees or otherwise not entitled to vote refrain from so doing, as should those who had submitted a proxy vote. Not overly surprisingly the candidate who won did not see the need to actually attend the meeting, and had enough proxy votes to outvote those present. One of my colleagues asked me why he’d bothered to stay for the voting, and I had no satisfactory answer for him. Perhaps one day proxy voting will be anonymous in sealed envelopes and not merely block voting by larger firms. If this happens, I suspect that more licensed Israel patent attorneys will join the organization and take part in the proceedings.
In an attempt to provide services for patent attorneys, it transpired that the committee had made some inquiries into negotiating personal insurance plans for members. Whereas professional malpractice insurance is something that is expensive and one can see the point of the organization negotiating block rates, I don’t think that patent attorneys need to negotiate as a group for personal insurance or pension plans. Such initiatives make sense for professions characterized by large numbers of practitioners and low salaries, such as the teaching profession, nursing and social work. Patent Attorneys are a small group of high earners that are regularly solicited by insurance brokers.
The refreshments were more than adequate comprising bread rolls with savory fillings, fruit platters, miniature muffins and biscuits, soft drinks, tea and coffee. The meeting was a good opportunity to meet ones colleagues and competitors.
Generally a successful event and Israel Patent Attorneys are invited to join.