AIPPI Conference, Constructive Criticism

excellent

I very much enjoyed the AIPPI conference last week. It had a good balanced program, with interesting presentations by active and by retired judges from the courts, by two senior Government Ministers (Justice and Health) who each spoke briefly, presentations by the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, by local and foreign patent professionals, judges and academics. The event as a whole almost ran to time thanks no doubt to meticulous planning by Dr Ilan Cohn, Tal Band and Dorit Korine who are to be congratulated on putting together a very enjoyable and varied program with generally good speakers covering interesting topics. There were parallel sessions offering something to everyone. Patent Attorneys could have furthered their education by attending patent related topics including valuation, claim construction for medical devices, US practice and the pros and cons of the Unitary Patent. Furthermore, the refreshments were delicious.

For a tongue-in-cheek review see Megillat AIPPI.

Nevertheless, the conference could have been even better. The attendance was poor and many firms were totally unrepresented. Others, who had a speaker or panel moderator, sent that person, who typically did not stay for anything else. I did not see any IP lecturers from any of Israel’s universities or law schools, apart from the one or two who were presenting.

I promised not to criticize anything on this blog prior to the conference. Indeed, I plugged it several times and even noted it was happening in my last newsletter, which has a large circulation. Now that it has been and gone, I am publishing some reflections. I hope that others take heed and consider what I write.

Participants, Cost and Program

cost benefits

There was an impressive 600 participants claimed in advance to sponsors such as myself. At the time the organizers said 350 on first day and 320 on second day. The organizers won’t provide me with a list of registrants, not as a sponsor (unlike what typically happens at other conferences) and not as a blogger. Consequently I can’t varify the numbers. Nevertheless, based on a quick count in the various halls and coffee area, I think that these numbers more modest numbers are inflated as well. Such a turnout is impressive for an Israel IP event, if less so for what was billed as an International IP Event.

That as may be, what was clear was that several firms were not represented at all. Some senior partners of other firms attended, particularly if they were chairing sessions. Very many practitioners did not attend. The local IP lawyers and patent attorneys are a well-defined, easy to reach demographic. If they didn’t turn up then either the publicity was bad or the program was somehow not attractive.

For several years now, I’ve watched many entrepreneurs, some with a high level of knowledge in their field, trying to bring their product to market. those that succeed are not necessarily those who can do everything themselves. A knowledge of personal limitations and involvement of others is a tried and tested strategy. This AIPPI conference required financing, organizing speakers and a balanced program, branding and marketing. I think what let it down was poor branding and marketing.

Under the auspices of the AIPPI this conference should have been seen by IP practitioners and academics as their event. It wasn’t perceived that way so people didn’t come. This is a branding failure. A second problem was the marketing. There is a world of difference in making sure that the key demographic groups know that an event is happening and making them feel that they want to come.

Note, I could simply focus on the program or the refreshments in this blog. The conference itself took that approach by stressing Israel’s Start Up Successes, and ignoring the vast majority of start ups that fail and Israel’s problem in growng and maintaining stable mature companies. So this blog has value, I will relate to other aspects. Maybe someone out there will heed what I say to the benefit of all.

Whova

Hoover

Going through the list in the totally superfluous App I noted that it included about 120 speakers and very large contingents from Reinhold Cohen (39) and Teva (23). This is not a bad thing. These are all practitioners that can learn from the program who are all welcome. The problem is that when one subtracts these from the totals and notes that there is a relatively small number of participants from abroad who are mostly Jewish attorneys who have local clients, work with local firms and are timing one of their regular visits., including many old friends and associates that I am delighted to see and that there were many Israel Examiners who came along for free to make up numbers, it is clear that the event did not attract the employees of very many local firms.

The event was blogged on the IPKAT and on this forum. Publicity was sent out via the various trade organizations. I doubt that much more could be done to attract foreign professionals. Especially in the less than favorable security climate.

bums on seats

Bums on seats…

What concerns me is that there was a low representation of the key demographic, i.e. Israeli patent attorneys, IP lawyers  and academics. I talked to some who didn’t register. There are those who are simply not interested in IP conferences and are too busy working. Others felt the program didn’t match their interests and needs and some felt that the entrance price was too high. One suggested to me that there should be a two tier cost, so that in-house attorneys and IP managers in start ups and those in small firms should pay less. He was willing to forgo the banquet and even bring sandwiches instead of attending the dinners, and the practitioner in question enjoys his food. I don’t know if this approach is realistic. That said, the patent office offers a 60% discount on patent filing fees to small businesses so maybe staggered fees could work.

The committee was heavily stacked with senior partners in large firms and with in-house IP personnel from very large companies. This reflected their choice of speakers which seemed to be senior partners in large firms and in-house IP personnel from very large companies.

It is possible that IP service providers and in-house managers of more modest companies have different needs and interests. If there had been a representation of sole practitioners, recently qualified practitioners – say within three years of qualifying, and indeed, trainees, plus in-house IP managers in businesses that are financially challenged, it is possible that the program and the venue might have been more attractive to the local profession who are the key audience after all.

On the map

In my opinion, the purpose of conferences of this nature should be two-fold.

  1. To showcase Israel and to put it on the IP map, promoting the country in general and its relevance to IP strategy in particular.
  2. To train practitioners, trainees and students. To do so, the first thing is to get them to attend.

Culture and Politics

culture club

The so-called Gala Event featured the following program:

  • Greetings: Dr.Ilan Cohn, AIPPI-Israel, Co-chair of the conference organizing committee
  • Meet leading Israeli Entrepreneurs
  •    Meet leading Israeli women Entrepreneurs:
    • Prof. Ronit Satchi-Fainaro, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University
    • Ms. Batsheva Moshe, CEO, Unistream Life Changing Entrepreneurship
  • “QUARTETOUKAN” Arab-Jewish Ensemble
  • Dinner

Now, for a change I am not going to criticize Dr Cohn for greeting. I think that the job of the co-chair is to greet the guests and introduce the speakers.

My issue is with the remainder of the program.  I find relating to women in this way sexist and offensive. So, incidentally, does my wife who has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and has worked for over 20 years in multinational engineering companies. We respectfully differ on many matters of politics and principle, but on this issue, we concur.

affirmative action

Prof Ronit Satchi Fainaro has a group with 13 active members, 10 of which are women. (of previous workers, one of four has is a male member. Her website shows a group of women researchers with a token man. It does not seem that her choice of staff is based on merit, but rather on affirmative action which is highly sexist. Ms. Batsheva Moshe is indeed the CEO of Unistream. she is not a director and is not the chairperson. Her entrepreneurial activity is not technology related. We can usefully discuss women entrepreneurs fighting for equal rights to conduct services at the Western Wall with ritual accouterments and  this could be quite interesting as well. However, one wonders what it is doing at an IP conference?

Quartertoukan

Quatertoukan – Is this the right cultural statement at this time, for this audience?

More puzzling still is the choice of musical entertainment. We are not merely provided with the name of the band, “QUARTETOUKAN” but are informed that it is an Arab-Jewish Ensemble. In other words, like the underlining of the word women in the speakers, the racial mix of the band was a political statement by the conference organizers.

If we look at the current Knesset and assume that it reflects the population as a whole, I think it is fair to say that none of the parties making up the government would have chosen to have this band playing at one of their events. I suspect that Yisrael Beteinu would not have chosen this band either. In fact, I suspect that Meretz is the only party that would have. (In this regard, I note that the Head of the Labour Party is currently touting the idea of stripping Arabs of their Israeli citizenship half a century after their suburbs were annexed to the state, and building a wall to keep them out).  That as may be, whilst I am all in favour of coexistence and cross-cultural fertilization and personally believe in a one-state solution, annexing the West Bank and giving full democratic rights to Arabs living there, I am aware that this is a minority position.

If we look at the Israeli IP profession, I think it is fair to say that there are at least as high a percentage of Hareidim, religious Zionists and settlers as there are in the population as a whole. What there is a low proportion of is oriental Jews. The number of Arabs is negligible.

TAYLOR-FORCE-FeatureCrop-Screen-Shot-2016-03-09-at-12.38.43-AM-305x172

Taylor Force, May God Avenge His Blood

The choice of music is not one that the profession listens to. The political statement is not one that has wide support in the profession. In the wake of the recent wave of terror attacks with the murder of an American tourist on the beach-front not far from the conference hotel a week ago, and with IP professionals who have lost family members and neighbors to Arab terror, from the Hadassa convoy massacre onwards,  one wonders if this choice is in good taste?

Now only one participant was wearing a hijab. This was an Examiner recruited by the affirmative action policy for government agencies. apart from Dr Sheila Licht, I didn’t notice anyone else that looked Sephardic. (Sure, Yehuda Tseruya is blue blooded Spanish and Portugese, but he’s a British educated Gibraltarian). I don’t think the music selected was aimed at the target audience. It is not what the predominantly Asshkenazic patent profession listens to.

What is an appropriate political statement?

Personally, for a political statement I’d have preferred to see this conference hosted in Jerusalem, our capital city. I assume that an overwelming majoirty of the local practitioners agree that at least Western Jerusalem should stay in Jewish hands. I don’t think doing so would have affected registration levels. When Note, I put my money where my mouth is. My last event was a PCTea party at Cinema City, Jerusalem.

Purim

Purim

In her presentation, Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked noted that we were not just a start-up nation but also had a long history. Commissioner Kling wished the audience a Happy Purim. He no doubt notes that Israel patent attorneys are mostly Jewish and many are proud of the fact and religiously committed.

hamentaschen.jpg

The hotel served poppy-seed cake at both lunches and there were Danish pastries for breakfast. Two days before Purim, maybe the tradition hamentaschen patisserie might have been appropriate. Would the handful of Indian and Chinese guests have taken offense? I doubt it.

party

If I’d been consulted I would have suggested that the gala dinner be in fancy dress. I think that IP professionals in small firms attended such events to socialize and have  good time. Perhaps this type of approach might have resulted in participants not only registering for the dinner, but also bringing their significant others along.

I have a patent attorney friend who works at TEVA who is a Meretz supporting  self-declared atheist who is intensely critical of the religious establishment. He quite happily posted a photo of himself in fancy dress at a TEVA Purim party. I don’t think that this sort of Jewish cultural content would be considered as coercion. I think that it would be seen as seasonally appropriate, cultural historical content.

megilla.jpg Haman

I would have gone further. If there had been a Megilla reading at the end of one of the days by ten patent attorneys each reading a chapter, and I can think of ten that read the Megilla who didn’t turn up, they no doubt would have, it would have been an occasion for everyone to boo and hiss Haman. These additional ten practitioners would have invited their friends and colleagues and the more people would have registered (although megilla is traditionally read on Purim, the Talmud speaks about reading up to four days earlier on market days when people gather together). Note, I don’t see any reason why local practitioners who present in any shape or form, shouldn’t have to pay attendance fees. Obviously, judges and senior patent office staff are in a different category.

Let’s assume, however, for arguments sake (and I do enjoy a good argument), that out of concern for alienating the potentially large delegation of Iranian patent attorneys, emphasizing Purim is not appropriate. Here’s the thing. Many patent attorneys don’t work on Purim, and fast the day before, leaving the office early, or working from home. The Purim week is effectively a short week. I suspect that many patent attorneys are also parents. Those with kids in the school system spend das and nights before Purim making elaborate costumes and photograph Junior and Princess in all their glory before sending them off to school. Getting to the Tel Aviv beachfront area for 8:30 to 9:30 am is not really compatible with this. Here again, this cosnideration affects the younger professionals more than those who’ve reached the pinnacle, and typically affects the religious sector more as they tend to have larger families. Jonathan Patentkin, Rabbi Alfred Thee and Susan Lifshitz are veteran patent attorneys with very large families that come to mind. My brother Aharon is a trademark practitioner with a mere six kids., the oldest still in elementary school. I think that if one is not intending on capitalizing on Purim to theme a conference and to allow the dignified to let their hair down a little. maybe Purim week is not the best time to have a conference at all?!

boycott.jpg

Many leading practitioners seem to boycott events sponsored by other firms. They would probably explain themselves as being perpetually too busy with work to make an appearance, but in my opinion, the term boycott is appropriate. It is necessary somehow to make the AIPPI into a practitioner organization so that everyone who is a member of the club sees it as appropriate for them to participate in such events. Frankly I think that everyone present, including the judges and other speakers, could have learned from listening in to other sessions. The attitude of not respecting other experts is not confined to practitioners. I don’t think there was a single IP lecturer who was not speaking or chairing a panel that saw fit to attend to listen to what others have to say. I’d go further. I think that those that did chair sessions or speak came along to do that and then went. Very few sat in on other sessions. This arrogance is sadly typical of the profession.

It is not clear what can be done to alleviate the situation. Some may say that one can bring a horse to water but can’t force it to drink. To some extent this is true. Nevertheless, I suspect that the way the event was run, it may have looked like a Reinhold Cohn production to members of other firms, rather than a profession wide conference. If we can find a way to make such events less branded by the main organizers and sponsors and can also make such events more fun, this may significantly impact participation levels.

One way to increase participation is to have as many people as possible doing something and to make them think it is their event put on by their professional organization with their help. This requires limiting the hands on involvement so that no individual is found moderating or talking at more than one event.

In addition, I think that instead of three people doing all the work and having a committee with important people on it to show that the event is endorsed by important people, the committee could usefully have included a range of ages and levels of experiences, and maybe a different sociopolitical-geograhical-religious persuasions. The idea behind this is that then committee members could target individual potential attendees and invite them individually by phone.

With such a clearly defined demographic, one can send everyone registered to practice at the IPO, all trademark and copyright attorneys, IP academics and others individualized invitations rather than simply informing that the event is taking place.

pyramid

Let us suppose that 20 IP practitioners and academics in different firms, universities and industry segments were each approached and asked to host a table at the gala dinner, and in addition to a fancy dress competition, there would be some fun events played between the different tables, could a medium size firm or a university department with an IP course have allowed themselves not to fill a table? If a sole-practitioner or an in-house IP manager had received four or five phone calls from friends, subcontractors and former mentors inviting him to join their tables, would he or she have felt that this is a big event that would be fun and should not be missed? I think people would come with their partners and colleagues and would come earlier and attend lectures. I suspect their spouses and girl/boy friends would come for the dinner.

Instead of a committee of important people, there would, thereby, be a committee that makes practitioners of all ranks feel important. This is a subtle difference that I think it desirable in a trade organization. I am shifting the focus from having an event to show how important the speakers and organizers are, to how important the organizers consider the potential participants and their enjoyment to be. It is a radical shift.

Do Gooders

The final session saw everyone posing with glasses of wine and listening to a discussion on whether IP could make the world a better place. Could it fight diseases? tackle inequality? prevent global warning? As we were leaving, a friend of mine commented that he didn’t understand what that session was all about.

I note that in addition to the festive meal and the reading, Purim is celebrated by gifts of food to friends and charity to the poor. To provide a buffet selection to participants at each lunch, and a choice of breakfast options and coffee break foods, the hotel provided twice as much food as was eaten. If this was properly refrigerated, this could have been harvested by LEKET Israel and distributed to soup kitchens an charities. Without anyone dipping his hand into his pocket, hundreds of people could have had a free lunch.

Israeli patent attorneys include one that is very active in feeding the poor and employing the unemployable on his farm. In the field of education, there is one who has set up an alternative school, largely funded it himself for some years, and is highly involved. I suspect that the Shin Horowitz chair in IP is also a philanthropic gesture. Undoubtedly there are other charitable initiatives and organizations that other members of the profession are involved with. With a little forethought, donations of participation in training courses and seminars, patent searches, patent drawings and other peripheral services could have been solicited and auctioned for a worthy cause. In other words, vague pontificating could have been replaced by action and an example could have been set.

8 Responses to AIPPI Conference, Constructive Criticism

  1. Sharon says:

    I don’t think there was a single IP lecturer who was not speaking or chairing a panel that saw fit to attend to listen to what others have to say. I’d go further. I think that those that did chair sessions or speak came along to do that and then went

    Not true, Michael. I think that’s too generalized … I can name at least three of the speakers who were in the audience of other sessions. I know because I saw them and/or sat next to them. And I’m not talking about RCP people.

    I do agree, though, that IP training in this country is a tad lacking. It’s not like other countries in which the local Patent Office offers courses on various subjects. So yes, the local patent attorneys association would have to step in. and it would certainly help if there were some sort of official qualification/certification (I’m talking about admin staff, not patent attorneys). One can dream.

    My two cents.

    All the best,
    Sharon

  2. Sharon,

    Thanks for your comments. It is good to receive feedback.

    I wasn’t referring to speakers, so much as to IP lecturers in academia this paragraph.

    Having attended conferences organized by lecturers for lecturers https://blog.ipfactor.co.il/2016/01/10/the-many-faces-of-innovation-day-1-bar-ilansa/ I certainly think that those lecturing in academia could have learned a lot about the subjects that talk about by attending such events.

    That said, Paul Fenster and Sandy Colb turned up on the second day only, and in the afternoon. They didn’t sit in on other sessions.
    I didn’t see other people from their firms at all, and no-one from Webb, Wolf Goller Bregman, Mark Friedman, Luzzatto, Eyal Bressler, etc. etc. Maybe there were one or two that I missed, but in general, there is a boycott of events by other firms.

    The attendance at this conference did seem depressingly low. I have tried to analyze why this is so. It will be interesting to see if others comment.

  3. Benny Attar says:

    Michael,
    I was planning to attend the AIPPI conference, and invite my mentor/boss/head_of_international_IP who is based in Europe, (budget was authorized) but did not, partly because less than 2 weeks earlier we were both at the Global IP exchange event and there is a limit to how many days a month we can spend fooling about.
    The Global IP exchange encourages participation both by legal service providers and legal service clients (IP management), the general idea being that bringing together both sides of the supply and demand equation is beneficial for all. Since it is obvious which direction the cash flows, one side gets to subsidize the other.
    There was definitely a missed opportunity here for IP practitioners to educate IP owners to make more efficient use of their assets. From your blog, it seems that all I missed (apart from the grub) was sermons preached to the choir.

    • Benny, I’ve enjoyed a couple of Global IP Exchanges. I don’t think that they offer value for money for service providers, but can see why they are fun for people in industry. The truth is that employees in industry don’t pay themselves, and clearly service providers do.

      RCIP seems to have generously let their staff attend at RCIP expense and for it to be considered a working day. I suspect that other firms didn’t and this affected registration levels. The IPO examiners attended as it was a free day off work that didn’t count as holiday.

      The thing is that there was plenty to learn. This event was better than any IP Exchange in terms of the quality of speakers and the program.

      I think the IP Exchanges are largely a scam with the service providers paying up lots of dosh so that people like you can have a nice trip abroad. Alex Deal and his mates make money out of it.

  4. Sharon says:

    Michael, hi

    I stand corrected J

    Yes, I was wondering why Gal and some other firms were absent. If the reason is merely not to attend conferences which others organize, then it’s pretty sad. And petty.
    As you can imagine, I don’t usually attend such events (as I am not a patent attorney), so I have no idea what happens at other events. But I have heard similar rumours before (about not attending other’s conferences). Again, in such a small country, this seems ridiculous, we could all benefit from each other. After all, people do move from one firm to others.

    Maybe suggest a session for sole practitioners and/or in-house counsel for next time? And organize it, of course …

    But there were more guests here from abroad than last time, it seemed to me. In general, I found it interesting and it was a good opportunity to meet with some agents from abroad.
    Food was great on the first day. No idea about the dinners, which I did not attend, and no idea about the closing session, which I had to forgo because of obligations at home.

    As to venue: whereas I am a Zionist at heart, I’m also practical. I would not have been able to attend, had it been in J-lem and not merely a 25 min drive from my house … (but that’s personal, of course).

    Have a good afternoon,
    Sharon

  5. Sharon,

    I don’t think Ilan and Tal are interested in any help from others. Certainly Jlem is less convenient for people from the center, but is more convenient for those living in or near Jerusalem, most of whom didn’t show up. This event should have attracted everyone. It didn’t and that is a shame.

  6. NAME WITHELD ON REQUEST says:

    In contrary to our previous correspondences, in which I usually use to criticize your posts J, this time I just wanted to say that I very much enjoyed reading this post and agree with every word.

    You’re right – Purim week is not the best time to have a conference at all! As a mother of three little children it was rather complicated for me to come, and I really had to make huge efforts to be there on time.

    Regarding the lectures, I would like to add something. I participated only on the second day (22.3) and I admit that more than once I wondered who is the audience of interest. My impression was that most (if not all) of the attendees were IP professionals. Accordingly, one would expect that the lectures are to have a high professional level so that participants like myself could learn something new or somehow benefit from attending these sessions. Unfortunately, at least in one session I attended, which I thought could be the most useful to me, I felt that almost zero input was provided. I spoke with a few friends who felt exactly the same.

    It seems to me that large firms sometimes forget that AIPPI is more than PR and mingling and more efforts have to be invested in providing real professional input. Otherwise, the tendency of having the majority of large firms representatives who come because they can will be even worse.

  7. […] review is a rather long read, but very useful if you plan to or have organised IP conferences in the […]

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: