Should the Israel Patent Office be Colour-blind?

One of my esteemed colleagues in the private sector brought my attention to the following advertisement:

ראש ענף (בוחן /ת פטנטים – צוער /ת)
חברה: ממשלתית / ציבורית
מקום העבודה: ירושלים
סוג משרה: משרה מלאה, עבודה ציבורית / ממשלתית
משרה זו מדרוש /ה ראש ענף (בוחן /ת פטנטים – צוער /ת) מיועדת לבני העדה האתיופית בהתאם לחוק החברות הממשלתיות.

דרישות: תואר אקדמי בהנדסה או במדעי הטבע.
אין צורך בניסיון קודם לדרגה תחילית.
במדעי המחשב או הנדסת מחשבים ותקשורת, מכשור רפואי, כימיה אנאורגנית
או לימודי רוקחות /פארמקולוגיה
ניסיון: רצוי ניסיון בתחום הפטנטים.
כישורים אישיים: כושר ניהול משא ומתן, כושר לקיים יחסי אנוש תקינים.
ידיעת השפה האנגלית כדי קריאת ספרות מקצועית, כושר הבעה בכתב ובעל פה
ברמה טובה בעברית. המשרה מיועדת לנשים וגברים כאחד.

Roughly translated:

The vacancy for a departmental head (Patent Examiner – trainee) is earmarked for members of the Ethiopian community as per Government Companies Law.

requirements:

An academic degree in engineering or natural science (no experience is needed for a starting salary)

Cmputer Science, Computer Engineering, Telecommunications, Medical Devices, Innorganic Chemistry or Pharmacology

Experience: Patent Experience Desirable

Personal skills: negotiation ability, acceptable interaction with people

Sufficient knowledge of English to read professional literature and to communicate at a good level in Hebrew both  written and oral.

The job is equally designated for men and women.

COMMENT

I am generally opposed to all forms of discrimination including those considered as ‘corrective preference’. I think advertisments like this are demeaning. that said, there is social stratification in Israel. 25 years ago I knew an Ethiopian immigrant who was doing a Masters in the Technion. He came from a professional family in Adis Ababa and spoke excellent English. Children of Ethiopian immigrants from Gondar who were basically subsistence farmers in the third world, do not get the support with school work that my wife and I can give our children. There is certainly an education gap that leads to social problems, and unfortunately, there is some racism in Israel. The Israel Patent Office has, over the years, helped absorb Romanians, English (under the late commissioner Michael Ophir aka Martin Oppenheimer) and more recently Russians. There are a couple of Arab examiners whose jobs may have been earmarked for Arabs, so why not earmark jobs for Ethiopians?

In my village, the Ethiopians are fully integrated and our kids play together. But, with the exception of one who works for the foreign office, most are employed in respectable but non-academic type jobs, for example as bus drivers.

Ashkenazi Jews have been urbanised for two millenia. It will take generations before the different groups will be represented evenly in all professions. The issue could become mute due to marriage between different sectors. I know an English doctor who is married to an Ethiopian.

I Suppose on balance, if an Ethiopian examiner can serve as a role model and integrate Ethiopians more successfully, it is a good thing. Nevertheless, earmarking a job for one group invitably discriminates against others. Amarhic is not a useful language for an Examiner. A European immigrant bringing in addition to English, one or two other languages that help deal with technical documentations would strengthen the searches and examinations done by the Israel Patent Office.

So is this a positive devlopment? Feel free to comment.

 

2 Responses to Should the Israel Patent Office be Colour-blind?

  1. Hi Michael,

    I would like to get your opinion regarding the common requirement “must be a native English speaker” found frequently in the patent field. Isn’t it a kind of prohibited racism?
    Moti

    • Mordechai, I don’t think it is racism. I think it is a recognition of the level of English needed to be able to draft decent applications. I have had colleagues, including Cynthia Webb recently, noting typos on this blog and in my newsletter. Everyone can and does make mistakes. However, Ilan Cohen and others have commented about how well written my patents are. Many scientists and engineers cannot write clearly. I can and through primary and high school always scored top marks in English. I would be wary of taking on a non-native English speaker to draft patents (except perhaps an American?). However, I am aware that sometimes Europeans have pretty good English and also have other European languages. I had a Russian paralegal who had surprisingly good Hebrew and English – she actually had a masters in English Literature.

      I have come accross a number of Israelis who have sufficient command of English that I could reccommend them to draft patents. I have seen some horrible applications written by Israelis though, where the problem was clearly a lingusitic one. Sometimes it is amusing. There is someone who had a piece of boiler-plate “the word plurality as used herein means one or more”. There is also a prominant IP lawyer who used to spell Attorneys ‘Attornies’ on her headed paper.

      When I have taken on trainees, it was English olim who were in a rut to try to help them out. I am quite pleased with the results. I’ve also taken on family members who needed a job on occasion. Nepotism? Possibly yes. I would certainly advise discerning clients that a native English level is highly advisable for someone drafting patents to minimize likelihood of ambiguity. Some Israelis get there. It is rare though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: