The Economy of Innovation

zombie.jpgIlan Cohn, Dorit Karine and Former Commisioner Asa Kling are to be congratulated for organizing a balanced high level program with parallel sessions relating to different aspects of IP, that was fairly well-structured. It was less schleppy than the 2016 reincarnation, but was nevertheless not inspiring. Participants returning to their offices would probably use terms like OK (בסדר) to describe the event to their colleagues. However, I can’t see anyone telling those colleagues that they missed out by not attending. Attendance levels were high for an Israel IP event, but low when considering the potential and the resources invested.

intercontinentalAs in previous years, the event was held at the prestigious David Intercontinental in Tel Aviv. There were over a hundred speakers, but luckily they were spread out over two days and with three sessions running in parallel and most having panels of four or five speakers, this was less overwhelming than it sounds.

ASHER_D._GRUNISAfter the usual self-congratulatory opening remarks, the conference kicked off with Judge Asher Grunis former Head of Supreme Court criticizing Judge made law, specifically the infamous A.Sh.I.R. ruling. Being a formalist myself, it was enjoyable hearing a Supreme Court president criticizing judges doing what they like.
It  would have been nice would have been reference to the recent injunction against Rami Levy in the Baladi case and also the controversial Unipharm vs. Sanofi which both related to Unjust Enrichment in IP matters. Then again, Rami Levy recently appealed the pasta injunction and may well be appealing the minute steak injunction, and Unipharm vs. Sanofi is under appeal, so perhaps he was correct not to address these cases.

It is not every day that one gets to hear a former Head of the Supreme Court discussing judicial legislation which is a hot topic at present due to attempts by the Justice Minister to reign in judicial activism.

Unfortunately, Judge Gronis didn’t bother using visual aids, and did not balance his talk by showing how judicial creations such a contributory infringement and indirect infringement (Srori, Rav Bareakh) can be valuable.

Variety

varietyThe conference was wide-ranging, with sessions on various aspects of patenting, including pharmaceuticals and computing which are always controversial.

There were also sessions on the interfaces of trademarks and designs and copyright and designs. The issue of content piracy over the Internet and new legislation addressing this issue was presented. There was a session on trade secrets and one on copyright infringement over the Internet, so there was much to interest IP lawyers and not just patent attorneys.

crowd.jpgNew tax issues relating to international companies were discussed, and how this would likely affect Israel. I took the opportunity to ask the panel about the VAT issue, and Adv. Ayal Shenhav confirmed my understanding that services relating to an asset in Israel do indeed incur VAT.  This is a practical issue that affects IP practitioners. I would have preferred some sessions on such practical matters, as there is confusion among practitioners.

There was a session on the fashion industry and one on IP rights and competition law. Licensing agreement and Medical devices were discussed, as was the Internet of Things and standard non-discriminatory  licenses. There was also a session on traditional knowledge.

adidas.jpgApart from the keynote lectures and the final session, there were generally three parallel and diverse sessions going at any time, so everyone could find something of interest; whether related to their practice or a window on some other aspect of IP.

As I had to pick and choose myself, although I did try to slip in and out to get some sort of feel for the different sessions running in parallel, it is difficult to give a fair overview of the entire event. It is certainly possible that the scheduling resulted in me totally missing sessions that I would have thoroughly enjoyed.

I rather enjoyed a session on the Interface Between IP Law and Competition Law, where Judge Grosskopf (now of the Supreme Court) related to the groundbreaking Unipharm vs. Sanofi ruling he gave in 2015. Adv. Liad Whatstein who is appealing the ruling gave an impassioned speech arguing that it was unprecedented and problematic. I’ve read and indeed translated that ruling. I marveled at Adv. Adi Levit and the Tomer clan having the audacity to bring the charges and Adi’s skills in obtaining the ruling. Most litigators are very clearly pro-generic or pro-drug developers depending on who their clients are. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to see Adv. Liad Whatstein sitting next to Judge Grosskopf and eloquently advocating for the pharma industry and condemning the decision. I suspect however, that those less familiar with the case, could have benefitted from an overview and introduction.

generic coffeeWhen questions were taken from the floor, I tried to obtain a straw poll from the panel on the legality of compatible refills for coffee machines, which was on topic for the interface between IP and competition law, and is something I am working on. It is also a down-to-earth issue that anyone present could relate to, whereas the pharma case was very specific. Unfortunately, none of the panelists wanted to go on record one way or the other.

unipharmDr Gil Tomer then posed a question, except it was actually a little PR speech. I am used to his father Dr Zebulun Tomer doing this at IP events, but this was the first time I’ve seen the son doing the same thing.

I think there are more interesting and engaging ways to relate to the issues raised, such as by a formal moderated debate between industrialists and litigators representing the pharma and generic industries.  This is, I am afraid, a general criticism of the conference as a whole. There was little thought in how to present the various issues in an entertaining manner. Many speakers forgo the use of slides, and those that did use them, tended to cram in too much information and then to read it.

Audrey-TwoDr Shlomo Cohen chaired a session on A Start Up Nation Israel’s Experience that I slipped into and found fascinating. Professor Oded Shoseyov showed how tobacco plants could be engineered to grow proteins such as collagen for wound healing of diabetics and others with leg ulcers and wounds that weren’t otherwise healing.

three d printI attended a session on 3D printing that was nicely chaired by Heidi Brun, but left in the middle.  The reason she gave for exploring three-dimensional printing was because she wondered if the wide dissemination of product related data for home printing would revolutionize consumerism and disrupt markets in the way that digital music files and digitalization of data over the Internet has revolutionized music and data consumption. Heidi is particularly well-known for writing up patent applications for communication systems. Data transmission enables digital printing of objects. Printing does not give the structural integrity required for many purposes. Three dimensional printing is very expensive and slow. It is good for one-offs which is why it is popular for prototyping and also finds use in fabricating prosthetics. Printing provides a flexibility for manufacturing stacked and interlocking parts that traditional manufacturing is unable to accomplish. As a materials scientist, I find some aspects of the technology interesting. However, I don’t find the legal aspects exciting or in any way stimulating, and think that there is a lot of hype and less substance. At IP conferences abroad I have attended sessions on digital printing that were more informative and better presented. Still it is an area that the trade journals and blogs do discuss. Possibly for the same reasons that I found the biotechnology fascinating, people not familiar with materials processing may have found this three-dimensional printing session more worth-while.

Tamir Afori chaired a session on copyright infringement. Mr Yoram Mokady, the VP of content at HOT described how HOT invests in creating new local content, but increasingly Israelis stream episodes and films over the Internet from illegal hosting websites, and don’t even use the cheap App that is available for  a nominal fee. I found his references to piracy excessive and his terming the issue theft, simply wrong. Coyright infringement is not theft. He noted that Israelis have learned not to pick wild flowers, and  that Israel can apparently develop software and infiltrate and interfere with software running centrifuges in Iran so that if there was interest, the problem could be dealt with.

Adv. Ayelet Freedman of the IP Law Department of the Ministry of Justice described recent legislation that addresses this issue. I was placed to see that the legislation was a little more balanced than the HOT presentation. One requires a court order to have ISPs block websites, giving judicial oversight. Infringers have a right to privacy. Such a court ruling was recently issued in Australia. I am all for giving junior colleagues a chance to present and to give women more prominent roles, but think that in this instance, it would be have been better had Howard Poliner made the presentation.

I noted that my friends from the IP department at Cisco (formerly News Datacom) who attended the IPR conference last month, did not attend the AIPPI event. This was a shame as they actually develop software for precisely this type of thing. It might have been interesting to hear an overview of the technical challenges and solutions and not just the legal ones.  I agree that the solution includes education, and perhaps the educationalists on the morning plenum could have addressed how such issues should be taught. Some of the issues are moral and ethical and one wonders, with half a dozen of Israel’s patent attorneys being trained rabbis,  if inviting one of them to provide a perspective might have been interesting. I believe that copyright protection is far too long tto provide any sort of incentive to create, and it would be nice to see this issue addressed. I note that Gad Oron, the Director of CISAC, the international Confederation of Unions of Creator and Composers. is in Israel next week as a keynote speaker at the Gabrieli Memorial Conference.  Having such an event the week after the present conference is unfortunate, but a memorial lecture is generally at the same time each year. If the conference was inclusive rather than exclusive, perhaps it could have combined the Gabrieli Memorial Conference to the benefit of both.

The AIPPI conference has jumped about a little. In 2013 it was in November, and in 2016 it was in March before Purim. This year it is two months later at the end of April/beginning of May. It is also a mere 2 1/2 weeks before INTA which no doubt will attract some Israeli IP professionals despite it being scheduled over Shavuot. If the AIPPI conference is to truly become an international event and attract practitioners from overseas, it is not enough for it to be merely a six months away from the AIPPI international conference in Mexico, it must also avoid clashing with the other large IP conferences.

The Gala

alchemyI did not attend the gala dinner as I had a Shiva condolence call to comfort some relatives who’ve had a bereavement.

Jack Bigeo, the CEP of UBQ Materials presented about his technology for turning trash into treasure. I was sorry to miss it, but it was good to know that alchemy is alive and well.

It seems that others voted with their feet as well. The 13 tables of 10 laid out, indicate that approximately two-thirds of the overall participants didn’t bother with the gala dinner, and most that did stay were presumably the panelists, the organizers themselves and selected members of their firms, and maybe a small number of participants from abroad. It is possible that some of the more devout avoided the dinner as it in the traditional period of mourning for the failed Bar Cochbah rebellion and also for the destruction of various European communities during the Crusades.  However, I don’t think it was the true reason for people voting with their feet. I suspect most did a simple calculation of whether the evening was expected to be enjoyable or not and assumed it wouldn’t be.

yonathIt would have been nice to hear the 2009 Chemistry Nobel Laureate Ada Yonath.  I understand why the gala dinner needs some big draw. Then again, the poor attendance of the gala dinner implies that she wasn’t enough of a draw to get many participants to fork out 450 Shekels for the gala, even though, like the rest of the conference, it is presumably a legitimate tax write-off for IP professionals.   The IP professional is a close-knit one. This was an event that could have attracted members of the profession that were too busy to attend the conference, to come along with their significant others. This did not happen. Why? Well I suspect that there was something wrong with the whole way the event was conceived, packaged and marketed.  It was perhaps a shame that Professor Yonath spoke at this poorly attended part of the program rather than her giving a keynote talk in a general session.

CiechanoverAnother Nobel Laureate, Professor Aaron Ciechanover (Technion) did speak in such a general session on the Tuesday,  on the same panel as Professor Omri Yadlin the President of the somewhat less prestigious Sappir College.  The topic under discussion was education. Sadly, nothing particularly profound or original was said. The session just didn’t seem to go anywhere. Nor was it relevant to Intellectual Property. Here Heidi Brun tried to link things to IP by asking whether patent applications spur innovation by making knowledge available, if students and academics ignore the patent literature. The question could have been better put, put none of the panelists were up to responding.
I would like to think that heads of colleges and Nobel Prize winners can give interesting and thought-provoking presentations. Sadly, this didn’t happen. Professor Ciechanover simply provided gravitas by being another Nobel prize winner speaking at the event, reminding those that had forgotten, that the event was prestigious.

quality speakersThere is nothing wrong with having big name speakers to raise the profile or a conference, but I want them to say something of substance.  It can be in their field or research or a hobby of theirs. I don’t want big name speakers used as decoration.  Maybe Professor Yonath spoke entertainingly and eruditely. at the Gala Wasn’t there. Don’t know. Perhaps like Randy Rader at the previous AIPPI conference, she gave an amateurish performance of Sixties rock. I was there to hear Professor Ciechanover, and I was disappointed. I wanted food for thought and didn’t get it. I think this was because the program coordinators wanted the people without putting much thought into why they wanted them. There were maybe 150 people in the hall Tuesday morning, so Professor Ciechanover was not the draw he was expected to be.

Typical solicited response from participant: “I enjoyed the conference, but I was content to leave by mid-day Tue. The later sessions weren’t interesting enough to me.

Refreshments

There were well-considered menus of perfectly cooked,  quality and enjoyable food.  In contrast with IP conferences abroad, it was all Kosher!  There was a choice of fish, meat and chicken on both days, with accompanying vegetables, a couple of carbohydrates, a couple of salads and ice-cream for desert.

Breakfast consisted of quality breads, butter, honey, a cabbage and carrot salad which managed not to be a coleslaw, cinnamon buns and rugelach-like danish pastries and yoghurt.

The tea-breaks were sponsored by Pearl Cohen, whose Baristas, like their barristers seem to have room for improvement. Still it was a hydration solution of sorts, even if not frivolously asserted.

vealThe lunch on the Monday was a choice between baked salmon, a beef stir-fry and medallions of chicken thigh in a soy sauce. There was mashed potato, sweet potato and a couple of salads, and the dessert was hot chocolate muffins and parev icecream.

On the Tuesday, there was a choice of chicken in a green curry sauce, veal or sea-bass with rice, sweet potato and a couple of salads. The chocolate muffins were replaced by a semolina cake, but the ice-cream was similar to Monday’s.

The food was all delicious and there was a fish option for those that don’t eat meat, a gluten-free option and enough side dishes so that vegetarians would not be hungry.

Still, I note that the refreshment buffet that The IPR InHouse Manager conference last month had a much wider range of more elegantly displayed food, a full salad bar, more options for the entrée and better deserts (It was also cheaper to attend).

I don’t know what was on the menu for the gala. I went in 2013 and that year there were nicely printed menus, but the food itself was nothing special.

SWAG

Disappointing. Apart from the conference tote (sponsored by Green Griffith) itself, a pens and a scribble pad, and a PCTea-cup that I sponsored, there was nothing to take home except for a few flyers.

RCIPOne of these, provided by Reinhold Cohn provided participants with a cardboard sheet with a press-out net for a box and some slogan about how they cn help people invent outside of the box. Large, well-established, solid and square like their logo.
I don’t think that Israel’s largest firm thinks out of the box. Maybe they do, but as far as the AIPPI conference is concerned, there was little indication of out-of-the box thinking by their Senior Partner, and as a result participation is stagnant and many who attended the first day did not come back on the Tuesday.  Things can be done, both to boost local attendance, and to better promote the event abroad.  A little actual thinking outside the box could do wonders to take the conference up a notch and help it fulfil its potential. It will require additional people becoming involved and daring to be different. So I don’t see it happening.

Fizzling Out

I did stay to the bitter end on Tuesday and found myself wondering why Dr Ilan Cohn had put himself on a panel  looking into the changing dynamics in the business of IP. It is indeed possible that, as an intelligent experienced professional whose firm handles a significant slice of the patent related activity in Israel, he has some important insights on the subject. If he does, he didn’t share them with us. Instead, we were treated to unfocused waffle on global shortage, social justice and other buzz phrases. By that stage, there were perhaps 30 people present including the five panelists. I was driving, so did not stay for the wine reception which looked like spare bottles from the gala served with leftover cranberries from the breakfast buffet and dry biscuits from the tea breaks as nibbles.  I wanted to get back to Jerusalem where I play Scrabble Tuesday evenings. As usual, I met up with David Spolter, Israel’s Scrabble Champion, who is a patent attorney of the type that does not attend IP conferences.

Attendance Levels

The attendance level was similar to that of the first two AIPPI conferences in Israel, back in 2013 and 2016. I am aware that Co-chair of the event, Nachum Cohen-Tzedek claimed that attendance levels over the two days was expected to come close to 500, but unless one counts those that attended both days twice (as one does for attendances at lunch, for example), it was patently obvious that the total number of different participants attending at least one session over at least one of the two days, was 350 to maybe 370. Unless the organizers send me a list of participants with emails so that I can verify to the contrary, I stand by these numbers. There were over 100 people presenting. this means that every presenter attracted two attendees. Indeed there were a large number of panel participants that came along for the morning or afternoon session that they were presenting at, who did not stay for anything else.

Perhaps marketing an event as having over 100 speakers and presenters is just not the way to attract attendees??? In fact, the vast majority of local attendants were patent office employees or representatives of the three main sponsoring firms. I do not know if, as sponsoring entities, these firms got seat allocations, but it does seem that apart from those who were actively speaking there was merely a core of mostly sole practitioners that attend all the IP events, including those at the patent office. These die-hards are easy to attract. Otherwise, the event was ignored by the IP profession.

There are 500 licensed patent attorneys in Israel. There are a further 150 patent office staff. At a rough guess there are 500 attorneys-at-law who practice some form of intellectual property. At the conference, I met up with half a dozen non-licensed professionals who are service providers, some senior paralegals at larger firms, and a few in-house IP managers that are neither licensed attorneys or patent agents but still should be interested in this type of conference.

Conservatively therefore, there are 1200 IP professionals in Israel.  There are a further dozen lecturers. Probably 50 to 100 trainee patent attorneys and attorneys at law, and several IP managers in industry, together with US and other attorneys that live in Israel.  These are the local potential.

In addition, there are thousands of IP professionals that travel to participate in international conferences, and Israel is a net patent exporter. In other words, I send far more patent applications to the US, Europe, China, Japan and Korea than the number of incoming cases. This should make an IP conference in Israel be attractive to IP professional for business reasons.  Together with the climate, the geo-centrality of Israel between Europe, Asia and Africa, and with direct flights to the West Coast of the US and to Hong Kong, with a fair sprinkling of IP professionals having family in Israel and believing Christians and Jews wanting to visit the Holy Land on pilgrimage, and with a density of signficant Roman remains on a scale not available anywhere else outside of Rome, one assumes that marketing Israel as a conference destination to overseas visitors should not be all that difficult.

Friend and UK patent attorney Michael Jager who flew in for the conference pointed out that an attendance of 350 would be good for an event in London, so maybe my expectations are simply too high.  Nevertheless, whilst it is clear that very few countries of a similar size could pull off a conference on this level,  it is also clear to me that the Israel AIPPI conference is far from reaching its potential.

There was, in my opinion,  major flaws in the marketing. Apparently sending out invites to previous registrants and to the patent office mailing list is not enough to create a buzz.

Unfortunately, the event is still not seen as hosted by the AIPPI and representing the IP industry, marketed to the IP industry, but rather as an RCIP conference hosted by Ilan Cohn as a marketing exercise.

A further problem is that the program was pedestrian. No shattering insights into anything. Just a rehash of tired clichés of Israel being an upstart a start-up nation. For overseas participants like WIPO economist Karsten Fink, understanding that Israel’s innovative edge is probably more linked to army units like 8200 than to university programs, may be something of a revelation. Being an Israel Patent Attorney who has studied at both local and foreign universities and who serves a range of entrepreneurial clients, this kind of insight does not provide the Eureka moment I hoped for.

5 Responses to The Economy of Innovation

  1. stuart weisrose says:

    How was the food?

    Not mentioned in your report.

    • Stuart,
      I did mention the food. you will have to scroll down, but it is there. The food was of a high standard, but less variety and less fancy than at the IPR conference of last month. I did not attend the gala. For more detail, read the full article.

    • Erez Gur says:

      The food that was served with the coffee break was disappointing.

      The lunch was not luxurious, but was perfect. There was just enough choice (not too much) and it all tasted great.

      • I agree it all tasted great. I think there WAS more choice in the first AIPPI conference, and the food was better at Kim’s IPR.

        So what did you think of the program???

  2. Paul says:

    Michael – I think that you described the conference very accurately. Although I do not feel that the first day was a waste of my day, I nonetheless decided not to return for day 2. I agree that there is a great deal of under-exploited potential.

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