Changing of the Guard

July 11, 2017

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.


AIPPI Conference, Constructive Criticism

March 27, 2016

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.


AIPPI Conference on the Economy of Innovation

March 2, 2016

aippi-israel

Following the successful first conference in 2013 (here here and here) the Israel Chapter of the AIPPI is hosting a second conference on 21-23 March 2016 at the David Intercontinental Hotel, Tel-Aviv, Israel.

The organizers have extended the period for reduced price registration so that not so early birds can still benefit from the reduced fees.

The conference includes addresses by the Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, by Mr. Francis Gurry, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and by Prof. Isaiah (Shy) Arkin, Vice President of the Hebrew University, and an impresive cast of 60 lecturers from Israel and abroad. The program for the first day is here and for the second day is here. Registration is here.

I will be attending. In fact, I am a co-sponsor and have snuck a free gift into the goody bag  the tote kindly sponsored by Tal Band and S. Horowitz & Co. Attendees are invited to come over and say hello.

As there are parallel sessions, I’d be grateful for advanced offers for guest bloggers to help me cover the event fully.


AIPPI Israel’s Second International Convention on Economy of Innovation – March 21-22, Save the Date

September 30, 2015

aippi

The AIPPI and AIPPI-Israel have announced their Second International Convention on Economy of Innovation which will be held on March 21 and 22.

For more details see here.

This is the second such conference. The first was held a couple of years ago and was a great success. See here and here.

Conference Coordinator Dorit Korine, AIPPI Chairperson Tal Band and Co-chair of Organizing Committee Ilan Cohen are to be congratulated for taking on this conference.


Kosher Food at AIPPI Toronto

September 14, 2014

toronto

The Chairperson of the Israel Chapter of AIPPI, Adv. Tal Band rose to my challenge and has ensured that there will be Kosher food available at the AIPPI conference in Toronto this week. We applaud him on this achievement.

Andrea Rush, a leading IP Attorney living in Toronto can be contacted for details of Kosher and Synagogue facilities in Toronto.

Unfortunately, due to pressure of work, etc. I won’t be attending, but wish colleagues and competitors a successful conference.


AIPPI – Part II

November 17, 2013

aippi israel

After lunch on Day One of the Israel AIPPI conference, I attended a session directed to IP professionals that discussed enforcement of IP rights in US, Europe, Asia and Israel.

judge benyamini

The Honorable Judge Amiram Binyamini spoke first, and addressed the inefficiencies of separately hearing requests for injunctions,  the validity of the patent in question, whether there is, indeed infringement and what the damages should be. Judge Binyamini criticized the Israel Supreme Court guidelines which hold the presumption of validity, and expressed a preference to get a basic handle on all the issues, even if perfunctorily, at the first hearing, so that, on occasion, he could provide an indication to the parties as to which way the wind is blowing, so that they would be encouraged to come to an out-of-court settlement or to drop the case altogether. He was particularly critical of bifurcated and trifurcated proceedings where different forums heard different aspects of the case, such as the patent office considering validity and the court, infringement. the talk was interesting and thought provoking, if a little heavy after a substantial lunch.

The judge quoted Lord Esher, Ungar v Sugg: 

““… that a man had better have his patent infringed, or have anything happen to him in this world, short of losing all his family by influenza, than have a dispute about a patent”.

Trevor Cook

Mr Trevor Cook from Bird & Bird spoke about the the new European Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court. His British accent and style of delivery are similar to those of Richard Attenborough and I found myself day dreaming about the new European unitary patent snuffling its way through the undergrowth.

Mr Pravin Anand gave a very good presentation on recent trends in Indian law. He really put the recent pharmaceutical patent litigation in India into perspective but noting when pharmaceuticals became patentable subject matter under Indian law. Despite the obvious differences in size between the Indian and Israeli populations, it seems that in this area, there is a strong common interest. Mr David Hashmall of Goodwin and Proctor then spoke about the rocket docket and forum shopping in the US, including proceedings at the ITC. Material I had heard before, but well presented.

Professor Phillips attended the same session, and his report may be found here.

Whilst the above session was taking place, there was a seminar in claim construction and patentable subject matter, featuring Edward D Manzo of Husach Blackwell discussing claim construction around the world and the America Invents Act, Matthieu de Rooij offering advice on patent drafting for prosecution in Europe, Deputy Commissioner Jacqueline Bracha discussing Israel Patent Office Guidelines to provide clarity, and Dr  Cynthia Webb discussing patentable and non-patentable subject matter. 

big bucks

After a tea break, I attended a very enjoyable session on Business and Taxation Aspects of IP. John Fisher, an accountant at Somekh Chaikin, who had apparently gone to the same high school as me, albeit a few years earlier, gave a very entertaining lecture with excellent slides. The main point was that after realizing that Starbucks had made some 3 billion quid in the UK but had paid a mere 6.5 million in corporate taxes, the British govt. understood that by paying royalties for use of trademarks and the like to a Dutch holding company, Starbucks were avoiding taxes in a legal but immoral manner. The issue was brought to the attention of the G6, who are working with other leading economies to close this loophole and to ensure that corporate tax will be paid where the work is done.

Ms Nava Swersky Sofer spoke about commercialization and suggested that instead of start ups, an alternative method of monetizing might be to interest an existing company to take on a project and develop it in house, since few start ups around a single project made the transition into viable companies, which generally needed a range of projects. Unfortunately, she didn’t address the issue of how the entrepreneur was supposed to interest an existing company in this manner.

Yuval Horn noted that the Israel govt. was getting aggressive in going after successful patentees where it believed that the patent was a service invention. He also discussed the royalties due to the govt. where loans were taken from Chief Scientist to provide initial funding.

Whilst I was learning about taxation, Professor Jeremy Phillips was learning about Israel trademarks. See here. Judge Michal Agmon-Gonnen of the Tel Aviv District Court) was true to form, by suggesting that, considering the “NP” part of the conference title, we’ve given too much profit to the trade mark owner.  Once upon a time there was just confusion doctrine, then came unfair competition and ultimately dilution — “which has nothing to do with consumers whatsoever”. She apparently cited her controversial ruling regarding four-striped trainers that were not likely to be confused with Adidas’ three striped shoes, which, has since been overturned by the Supreme Court. I gave Professor Phillips a ride back to Jerusalem the following day, and I understood that he found Ms Agmon-Gonnen’s views intellectually stimulating, but out of sync with general trademark practice. I noted her other ground-breaking IP decisions that have since been overturned…

This event was followed by the Gala Dinner. The food was truly superb and Kosher! Yes, I know that that is no big deal for an IP conference in Israel. It is, however, a big deal for AIPPI conferences. At AIPPI Paris, I was a guest of honour, but they still couldn’t arrange Kosher food for me at the Gala Dinner.

This is the menu:

Roasted St Peter’s fish fillet, fettucine, green vegetables and Pesto

Chicken Breast filled with onion jam and almonds, chicken liver and delicate chili sauce, saffron rice

Phyllo (cigar) filled with caramelized apples, poppy seed ice cream, hazelnut praline cream.

Wine: White wine: Fusion, Merom Galil Segal’s semi dry 2012

Red wine:  Fusion Merom Galil Segal’s 2011.

Everything was cooked to perfection, displayed beautifully and seved professionally. The white wine was not too sophisticated, but very drinkable. Particularly for someone like me who is not too sophisticated.

rader rocking

Judge Rader sang a repertoire of rock hits, including He saw her standing there, I’m a believer and a number of Rolling Stones hits. Ms Suzanne Erez, who was on my table, noted that it was odd that the Stones which were considered so rebellious at the time, were now so main stream that their songs could be sung by a Federal Circuit judge at an IP conference. I wouldn’t have thought Suzanne was old enough to remember Mick Jagger in his rebel days.

A couple of Israel Practitioners asked me who the singer was, and when I answered Judge Randall Rader, the response was “who?”. the first couple of songs were fun, but after that, I thought that he was mostly entertaining himself rather than the audience. It was tempting to take the mike and invite everyone to the X-Factor, giving all my colleagues an opportunity to take part in what could have been a fun karaoke evening, a la Ally McBeal.

Ally Mcbeal2     x factor. 2jpg  

I did ask Judge Binyamini, Commissioner Kling and President Tal Band if they were interested in performing, but one claimed to have lost his voice, and the others said that they weren’t singers. I am sure that some IP practioners in Israel have hidden talents – even those whose IP talents sometimes seem, well, hidden. I do stand up comedy magic and could, I think, have netertained with some patented inventions. There are patent attorneys who sing.

Maybe one of the half dozen patent attorneys with rabbinic ordination, could have said grace?

Marshall phelps

Dr Ilan Cohen then introduced the eminent guest speaker, Marshall Phelps, former IP Counsel to IBM, Microsoft and others. Marshall mapped the various smart phone wars and tried to put them into perspective, looking at other breakthrough technologies, such as the dawn of the aviation industry, sewing machines, telecommunications, and the like. he explained why the US had forced Bell and IBM to license their patents in the 50s, explaining that they were concerned that Japan would be invaded by China, and were trying to protect democracy and capitalism from communist forces.  Marshall had a couple of important insights. He felt that the real defendant in the various cases was Google. Essentially, Apple was pricing its products to try to recoup the investment in their operating system whereas Google was giving Android away for free. He noted that Samsung was Apple’s biggest customer and that the patent litigation really only served the lawyers. He was confident that eventually, everyone would cross-license all the patents. He could not understand why China, who could access the Android platform like everyone else, and was anyway, making the i-phones for Apple, hadn’t yet come out with their own smart phone.

troll

On the topic of trolls, Marshall noted that awarding damages to the winner, including the successful defendant, would be a good way to address excesses by nonpracticing entities. He felt that it was only when the NPEs went after small businesses that the US government felt a need to get involved. He mentioned that many companies tried to monetize patents they weren’t using by licensing them. He stated categorically that noone would call IBM a troll. I found this last comment rather amusing, as on his previous trip to Israel, that is EXACTLY what Marshall Phelps, then with IBM, called the company. I pointed this out to him, and he grinned wickedly and said that he was sure everyone would have forgotted, but more seriously, that it depends on the audience – i.e. he’d expect that patent attorneys would realize that the non-practicing entities like tech transfers, companies like IBM, etc. could legitimately capitalize on their inventions.

Whilst those syaing locally, went on  pub-crawl, I had a lift home with Yehuda Zeruya, a Gibraltarian who introduced me to Patent Law, that is doubly aristocratic being British and Pure Serfardic at the same time.


AIPPI Conference in Israel from IP to NP (net profit) – Part I

November 12, 2013

 danhotel1aippi israelconference

I spent the last couple of days thoroughly enjoying myself in the intellectually and socially stimulating environment of an AIPPI Conference in Israel.  The  two-day conference titled IP to NP (Net Profit)  spanned 10 and 11 November 2013, and was held in the  Dan Panorama Convention Center on Tel-Aviv’s beach front. The full program and other information may be found here.

The event attracted in excess of 400 participants, including some 100 patent and trademark professionals from abroad, and has set new standards for IP Conferences in Israel. Mr Marshal Phelps, the former head of IP for IBM, Microsoft and other companies of similar size, summarized it best, saying that he can’t think of another small country that is able to pull off a conference of this quality.

Rare for serious IP conferences, the vast majority of participants attended the vast majority of sessions. There was, however, also time to mingle over lunch and tea breaks, where, indeed, the refreshments were world class, in terms of both quality and choice. Whereas the lunches offered a plenteous and varied repast in buffet style, the gala dinner had a fixed menu, which was, however, superb. Furthermore, unlike the major AIPPI biannual conferences in Boston and Paris that I have attended in the past where there was no provision of Kosher food, in this case, the refreshments were Kosher and thus also Halal, catering to both Jews and Muslims. Vegetarians were also catered for.

Keilim Shluvim, responsible for the administrative arrangements, did an excellent job. Ms Dorit Korine who pulled everything together seemed remarkably unflustered, calm and professional. Although the sessions didn’t run absolutely to time, the timetable was followed to a far greater extent than is typical for Israeli conferences, particularly IP events.

In the past, I have twice organized IP conferences that have attracted in excess of 200 participants, which, until now, seems to have been the Israel record. One was a half day program on the practical topic of employer-employee relations, and the other, a full day event on the somewhat esoteric topic of Intellectual Property in Jewish Law. I have never attempted more than a one day event, and the two day IP events in Israel that I have attended in the past have been highly academic and detached from all reality. This AIPPI event was not merely a two day event with a line up of top speakers, but apart from the keynote lectures, offered two or three choices of program in adjacent halls, so, in terms of the number of speakers to arrange and coordinate, was more like a 4 or 5 day conference. Unusually but usefully, there was an honorary proof-reader, Dr Samara Bel. The hoardings, detailed program and several slides did include odd typos and grammatical errors. These were, however, both fewer and further between than is traditional at Israeli conferences, and I note that the conference was in English, which is the second language for most speakers.

In short – a tribute to Israel, putting the country on the IP Map and a hard act to follow.

No-one would bother reading my reviews if I didn’t find some criticisms as well, so I will try to relate to the program and speakers in more detail, and intersperse with some of my thoughts.

We heard greetings by Professor Dina K. Prialnik, the Vice Rector of Tel Aviv University, and then a keynote lecture by Professor Daniel Zajfman, the President of the Weizmann Institute. Later on, Yaakov Michlin from Yissum Tech Transfer of the Hebrew University spoke (I was in a parallel session, but Professor Phillips of the IP Kat reports here). It was rather embarrassing and unseemly to see these representatives of Israel’s premier institutions bickering over which institution was better in general and better at tech transfer in particular.  To some extent, Professor Haggit Messer Yaron who currently heads the association of teaching universities in Israel made some order in her keynote lecture at the end of the conference, but I think an agreed presentation of relevant facts and the different colleagues arguing about their different strategies in an open debate would have been better than the snide pot-shots they took at each other. After all, Israel needs a high level post-graduate research institute such as the Weizmann Institute, but does need places offering undergraduate degrees as well. Fundamental research into the natural world has tremendous value but Israeli industry also needs and benefits from applied research conducted in coordination with the universities.  On a national scale, all three institutes, and, indeed, Ben Gurion, Weizmann, the Technion, Haifa and Ariel University all have a part to play, and the bickering over who is the better seemed out of place to me. After all, despite the fact that the vast majority of the audience had or were studying at one or more of these institutions or were putting their children through them, very few of us had any influence regarding how the national budget for higher education is divvied up, or had the resources to make worthwhile donations.

The second Keynote Lecture was delivered by David Kappos (former Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, currently with Cravath, Swaine & Moore, LLP, speaking on “The role of IP in the future world development”.  Mr Kappos spoke on why IP was unpopular, suggesting that it was due to it being a medium term investment. He also argued that software should be properly protectable since it was an important aspect of many innovative products, and it was difficult to see why it should be less worthy of patent protection than the physical parts of modern systems. I found this lecture was a little disappointing. I was anticipating more thought provoking insights from someone with David Kappos’ experience.

When it comes to IP firms in Israel, the Reinhold Cohn group is far and away the biggest local IP firm and one of the few that can claim an 80 year history. It was therefore appropriate for them to take on the not inconsiderable financial burden of being a Gold Sponsor, which few other Israeli IP firms can. I suspect that without Dr Ilan Cohn’s active participation on the organizing committee, and Ms Michal Hackmey on the steering committee, this conference may well have not come together. I can appreciate why Dr Cohn saw fit to introduce Guest Speaker Marshal Phelps at the Gala Dinner, and can understand why the firm’s name was on the ribbon for the name tags. However I am not sure why he saw fit to moderate one panel and sit on another himself. As Dr Cohn heads a firm of over 250 employees with dozens of attorneys and patent attorneys, as we learned from the advertising flyer discretely left on every seat in the room, I wondered why some of this work wasn’t delegated?

Particularly in the first parallel session on “The Role of IP in Seeking and Securing Investments from Angels, Capital Ventures and Private Equities” I felt Dr Cohn’s participation in the panel was wrong. I will attempt to explain why. The panel in question also included Dr Hadar Ron, the Managing Partner of Israel Healthcare Ventures, a healthcare venture capital fund. It also included Mr Yaky Yanay, the VP Finance and CFO of Pluristem Therapeutics, Inc. – a life science company. The fourth panelist was the head of the PCT division of WIPO whose advice was to use the PCT system, one I generally endorse, but hardly thought provoking. He didn’t even discuss intelligent ways of optimizing usage of the PCT system, and there is certainly what to say on the topic.  Not surprisingly,  the experience and advice of the other two Israeli speakers was heavily focused on life science initiatives. Dr Ilan Cohn is also a practitioner with a background in the life sciences, and I suspect that if he gets involved at all in advising clients in other fields, as the senior partner of a large firm with experienced he does so primarily, if not exclusively, with the clients having the larger, more significant portfolios, as befits the senior partner of a large firm. Dr Ilan Cohn argued in favour of filing widely, particularly in the Far East, China being essential. I would, however, have expected that as the only patent attorney on the panel, he would have stated that there are no hard and fast rules, and every entrepreneur or CFO should discuss this issue with their IP counsel, whether in house or external, and inform him or her of the wider picture affecting the company and the industry so that the patent attorney can give scenario specific advice. There are various considerations relating to where competitors are situated, where the markets are, where certain technologies are considered patentable and  time to market and lifespan considerations that should be taken into account and balanced with the fact that filing widely costs money and utilizes precious resources. I suspect that the panel would have been better served by a different Reinhold Cohn patent attorney, such as an attorney who meets new clients in different technologies, perhaps Yehuda Seruya – if only by virtue of him sitting in the Jerusalem Office and thus perhaps being the first port of call for a geographical location rather than a technology field, or maybe a partner specializing in strategy. What is clear is that entrepreneurs blindly following this advice would not generally be optimizing their IP portfolio, and in some cases would simply bankrupt themselves. Please note, these comments do not in any way detract from my esteem of Dr Ilan Cohn, both personally and professionally. 

I note that the moderator of this session asked a large number of pre-arranged questions to the panel. I suspect that if more time has been available for questions from the audience, the issues I raise here would have come out.   If the experts on the panel have genuine expertise they would have managed to answer questions from the audience. The purpose of the session as indicated by its title was to explain the role of IP in raising funding from Angels, Capital Ventures and Private Equities. I think the audience was short-changed. There is nothing wrong with panelists promoting themselves, but this wasn’t the primary purpose of the session, or at least not from the perspective of the participants who had paid good money to attend.  

Concurrently with the session I attended, which was aimed primarily at entrepreneurs , there was a session aimed primarily at IP Professionals titled Copyright and the Future of Open Source, and one titled “Commercialization of Know-how and IP rights: the Role of Government, Academia and Industry”   and one aimed at Senior IP Management at Stakeholders titled ” Commercialization of Know-How and IP rights: the Role of Government, Academia and Industry”.  Professor Phillips attended this session and his review may be found here. Of note, apart from Yaakov Michlin’s response to Professor Daniel Zajfman, that it was actually Yissum and the Hebrew University (where I obtained my Ph.D) that is bigger and better than Yeda and Weizmann, was an interesting suggestion from Aharon Schwartz, a Consultant and former Head of Teva Innovative Ventures, who suggested a new paradigm for pharmaceutical development, wherein anyone could develop a drug and bring it to market and the first to reach market would receive exclusivity for a period ranging from 3 years to 12 years depending on the level of innovation. This first to reach market would pay royalties to the patentee. In terms of the creativity of this suggestion as food for thought, it strikes me that I was in the wrong session. I suspect that the idea is unworkable and am skeptical if it would increase new drug development. Nevertheless, it would be potentially very profitable, not just for Teva, but also for IP litigators, and I suspect was accordingly well received. Certainly, the applause I heard from next-door was noticeable.

 The third parallel session on Copyright and the Future of Open Source was mediated by Professor Michael Birnhack of Tel Aviv University and featured MS Suzanne Erez, IP Counsel of IBM and Adv. Haim Ravia.  The other speakers at this session included Mr Muli ben-Yehuda and Dr Ron Rymon.  Professor Phillips is attempting to get this session summarized on the 1709 copyright blog. I have no idea by whom or when though. 

Regarding aiming parallel sessions at market segments such as IP practitioners, entrepreneurs and senior management, that is perfectly legitimate.  I am not sure that it was necessary to write who the session was intended for on the program though. I feel generally old enough and self confident enough to choose which sessions most interested me, and suspect this was true of other conventioneers. I think that focusing some of the parallel sessions on different market segments, such as life sciences, software & telecommunications and traditional manufacturing or something similar might have been more appropriate.

The morning session was followed by a delicious and varied lunch buffet with some particularly creative salads, and there was a sizable quorum participating in (the purely voluntary) afternoon prayers before the second set of parallel session got underway.

Professor Jeremy Phillips, the blogmeister behind the IPKAT flew in specially to cover the conference, and not for the first time whilst watching him work, I marveled at how he managed to post brief, amusing and generally complimentary summaries of proceedings in real-time. Personally, I hate working on a laptop and much prefer to arrange my thoughts and write up my summary ex ante. I think that his efforts to bring this event to the attention of the thousands of subscribers of the IP KAT is a true service to IP in Israel. In general, I decided to attend different sessions from the ones that Jeremy attended, to report on different lectures and presentations as much as possible.

I think this blog posting is long enough. I will cover the rest of the conference in a series of additional posts and will try to do so by the end of the week.