Changing of the Guard

changingThe various professional organizations representing the IP profession in Israel (LES, AIPPI and IPAA) cosponsored a reception to honour outgoing Commissioner Asa Kling and incoming commissioner Alon Ophir.

The event was held on Sunday in the Israel Yaffe conference center just North of Tel Aviv.

As an IP blogger, I felt obliged to attend and to write about the event. However, it was singularly non-memorable.

About 90 practitioners turned up, including some of the senior members of the profession that rarely patronize IP events. Other senior members were absent. This could, however, be due to vacations and the like.

dinosaurNachman Cohen-Zedek, as the last of the dinosaurs, spoke some words of introduction. I could not tell what he said, and nor could the other participants sitting in my area. The acoustics were poor and most of the speakers forgot to talk into the microphone. Asa used a projector to show a power-point presentation, however, it was out of focus and poorly illuminated, so apart from noting that the talk was illustrated with a steady increase in pink clouds with writing on them, I can’t actually report what he spoke about.

TOMERAs he is wont to do at various events, Dr Zebulum Tomer took the microphone, ostensibly to ask a question but in practice to give a little speech. He clearly believes that his one man crusade against poor pharmaceutical patents is a public service, which it is. However, those developing drugs are also serving a public interest. I don’t think anyone needed reminding that he is not an attorney but an industrialist. He reminds everyone at all events. The lawyers present generally look down on industrialists, and are certainly jealous of his competence in opposing patents which outshone that of anyone present.  The patent attorneys probably were a little jealous, still half wishing we actually made something instead of pushing paper.

Alon OphirThe person compering the event noted that Alon Ophir is the second commissioner named Ophir and that we will have to relate to him as Ophir the Second or some such to avoid confusion. This was a reference to former Commissioner Martin Oppenheimer who Hebracised his name to Michael Ophir. Commissioner Ophir seemed very young. He is a Kippa wearing practitioner which fueled speculation about whether his appointment reflected activism in Bayit Yehudi, the political party that the Minister of Justice represents. The press releases about Commissioner Ophir’s appointment mentioned how impressed the committee was regarding his vision. I was disappointed that he did not explain what his vision was. He noted that obviously outgoing Commisioner Kling did a great job, what does seem to be his focus is in decreasing pendencies and making the patent office ever more efficient. He expressed surprise and disappointment that more Israeli applicants were not first filing in Israel and accelerating examination to get an opinion before having to file abroad and applying the discount when filing PCT applications. He attributed the failure to ‘probably inertia’. Whilst accepting that some practitioners do use time-honoured strategies without consideration of changes, I don’t think this is the whole answer, and hope that the commissioner tries to listen and discuss with the profession instead of assuming that they are all lazy. I had to leave early as I had a ride with another attorney, who on leaving the hall early told me that we would be stuck in traffic. I suggested that perhaps we should go back in and leave later. He thought for a minute and said that he’d prefer to be stuck in traffic. I think this says it all.

With the attraction of introducing a new commissioner and thanking his predecessor, and with July being generally a quiet month, this was an opportunity to hold a stimulating event with the participation of some of the senior practitioners. The organizers chose to invite paid up members instead of reaching out to potential members, and did not consider how to make the event fun or intellectually stimulating. I think this is a shame and a lost opportunity.  It was however, correct and proper that an event happened.

I went on to a Bat Mitzva party. The 12 year-old girl celebrated by completing a tractate of the Talmud. it was the type of event where friends of the parents are Western immigrants with higher degrees and there were a number of patent attorneys present. One noted that his clients filed patent applications in Israel but did not want to speed up examination, and he thought that the changes in recent years whereby one cannot simply suspend examination indefinitely and cannot suspend at all without paying to do so, were commissioner efficiency drives that served no purpose. Readers in the know will not be surprised to learn that the practitioner was ex Fenster & Fenster. This approach, which enabled amending the spec and claims in light of infringers and deferring prosecution and allowance unless a patent was needed, was, though legal, nevertheless an abuse of the system. However, it does emphasize that practitioners are supposed to work the system for the benefit of their clients. Commissioners are supposed to ensure that the system works efficiently and such abuses don’t take place. We are on different sides of the fence.

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