Intellectual Property Resources (IPR) held their annual conference entitled IP Best Practices 2015 in the Tel Aviv Sheraton Hotel on May 11, 2015. I apologize to the organizers and to readers for my tardiness in reporting this. The program can be found here.
This event has become an annual fixture in the Israel IP calendar, and is widely attended by in house counsel, foreign patent attorneys. The speaker list, as always, was impressive. The event was well attended by in-house IP counsel and by sole practitioners. There were also a number of participants who had flown in from abroad, not all of whom were sponsors or speakers.
Ruud Peters, strategic advisor to Philips gave his perspective on IP developments as did Toshimoto Mitono, a Senior IP Counsel at Sony. Whereas the issues and budgetary considerations that Philips and Sony have may not be relevant for most Israel companies and their IP counsel, whether in-house of a service provider, I did find some aspects of the talks relevant, and found the presentations as a whole, thought provoking and well worth attending. It was interesting hearing from Philips dismiss the company as a developer of shaving solutions that does strategic deals with manufacturers of other products, allowing them to use the Philips name on their products, where Philips has only a marginal influence, mostly on the aesthetics. I have long felt this to be the case, but rather enjoyed hearing someone from Philips saying it.
The regional updates were generally good, however the Indian practitioner seemed to get stuck in excruciating details of the formalities requirements for Indian native inventors having to first file in India and only later go abroad. This was of little interest to the other participants, none of whom were Indian. The Peter Sellers Goodness Gracious Me intonation merely accented the irrelevance. Micaela Modiano attempted to convince us that with the right attorney (her?) one could obtain patents for software in Europe. The problem was that one apparently requires novel and inventive hardware elements, so the jury is still out.
Chixue Wei, Chairman of the Board of Linda Liu & Partners didn’t speak English, but this didn’t stop him from giving a presentation, with his very presentable young female assistant doing a simultaneous translation for him. It was rather like a prequel for the Eurovision song contest in that one didn’t actually need to understand what he was saying to follow the gist, with the slides being quite adequate. Frankly I wondered why he didn’t have her present and apologize for his poor English, but note that His Excellence had come in person and would deal with questions on a one-on-one basis. This would have left us assuming that he had some English but just wasn’t up to public speaking. He made a valiant effort to convince us that he could solve all enforcement problems and may indeed by true, but it wasn’t convincing. I have yet to hear a foreign practitioner presenting himself as not being able to provide a solution. However, I can’t see myself intentionally engaging a practitioner who doesn’t speak English and suspect that this is true of others as well.
Terry Rea the Former Acting and Deputy Director USPTO and Deputy Under secretary for Intellectual Property (which is apparently anything but a secretarial position) gave a very polished fireside chat on changes in the USPTO. She even managed to professionally field a naughty question I asked her about when the USPTO examiners would come to realize that there might be relevant art filed in other countries and not necessarily in English.
The US practitioners that presented were drawn from Mintz Levin, Finnegan and Greenbaum & Bernstein. All spoke well and competently. The most useful presentation was that of Michael Fink of Greenbaum & Bernstein who addressed the issue of writing contracts with indemnity clauses, to roll over responsibility for IP to suppliers of components. I found myself making a written note to engage him for this task where relevant.
The food, as would be expected from the Sheraton, was plentiful and delicious. Breakfast was filling. During the breaks the refreshments provided an opportunity to
graze mingle. Lunch was superb.
Kim Lindy was taking a back seat on the day, and though ever present, was not introducing speakers. Not exactly a shrinking violet, it turned out that she had damaged her eye. With the patch and the military precision with which the event ran, she was reminiscent of Moshe Dayan. I suspect, that rather than being a Model Major General, behind the scenes, she was more like a Piratical Maid of all Work.
In terms of the quality of the presentations, the opportunity for networking and the refreshments, the event was extraordinary value for money. The fees were less for in-house counsel than for service providers. This is a common strategy abroad, but less frequently practiced in Israel. In theory it ensures lots of big fish for the IP
harpoonists service-providers. Of course, manufacturing and research entities would generally be paying the attendant’s fees and a couple of hundred Shekels more or less may make little difference. I can understand but disagree with the short-sightedness of both employees of service providing IP firms and their employers who did not attend in large numbers. There were a number of practitioners from smaller firms, but only two employees from larger IP firms (one from Colb and one from Ehrlich). I find this worrying. I can understand IP firms not patronizing each other’s events. I can also understand firms seeing IP Factor as competition or not being happy with some blog article or other and avoiding my events, despite their high educational and social value. With over 1600 blog posts, I have criticized decisions and rulings in which all firms were a party at some time or another and so can understand my loyal readership not patronizing my events. The thing is that Kim is not an IP firm. She is a service provider to IP firms, hosting events and training programs and offering software solutions. Now it may be annoying to some that she offers a platform to US and other foreign firms to work directly with in-house counsel but as Thomas Friedman put it, the world has gotten flatter. In-House counsel generally started life in one of the patent service providers. They are aware of foreign firms and know the advantages and disadvantages of engaging them via local practices. By boycotting Kim’s event, the larger Israeli practices are giving the US firms a free playing field.
I don’t expect an Israeli patent attorney to be expert on writing contracts for licensing or subcontracting manufacturing in the US. I would expect a local attorney to work with someone licensed abroad. Kim’s event enables one to learn who specializes in what and to get a brief overview of these sorts of issues which anyway are continuously changing. I think that Israel Attorneys owe it to their clients to have a basic handle on these issues and so am a firm believer in attending IP events like this.