The Economy of Innovation

May 3, 2018

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 Read the rest of this entry »


IPR or AIPPI???

February 27, 2018

conferencesI was contacted by a trainee patent attorney who wishes to attend one of the forthcoming IP conferences in Israel but is not sure which one is better value for money.  The firm where she works are prepared to recognize her attendance as a day of work rather than a vacation, but are not prepared to pay for her participation.

ipr-logoThe 6th Annual Best Practices in Intellectual Property is hosted by the IPR and will take place on March 12th and 13th 2018.

 

aippi-israelThe Third International Conference on the Economics of Innovation is hosted by the AIPPI on April 30th-May 1st 2018 which may interfere with participation in International Workers’ Day, but I suspect that few IP practitioners in Israel actually march.

(The big international conferences fall over Jewish festivals this year. INTA is in Seattle, USA, but overlaps Shavuot. The AIPPI 2018 World Conference in Cancun, Mexico is over Suckot).

Although I believe that firms taking on trainees should invest in them and both the IPR and AIPPI Israel conferences include sessions that provide excellent training for the bar exams and/or professional development, clearly the cost of such conferences adds up rapidly for large firms if they send all of their staff. I can also appreciate why an IP firm may not want someone not yet qualified appear to represent them, when wandering around a conference and meeting potential clients and associates or actual clients and associates.

apprentice payNevertheless, on the salary of a trainee, particularly one with family commitments, both conferences are costly. A significant number of trainees are new immigrants that are self-not living with their parents. Those unluckily enough to be on a percentage of salary may not earn a minimum wage and I believe their ‘mentors’ should be struck off. But even those earning a reasonable fixed trainee salary may find that laying out 850 Shekels for a day of training lectures, is difficult to justify, despite the high quality lunch and coffee breaks and the possibility to pick up a couple of pieces of swag from exhibitors.

fair priceThis does not mean that either conference is objectively expensive when considering the standard of the program and the costs involved in hosting such events in expensive hotels, the quality of the refreshments and the cost of such programs abroad. However, I can certainly see why someone paying for himself or herself may not be able to justify for both events.

mingling 2Licensed In-House practitioners may well be able to get their companies to pick up the tab for them to attend both conferences, and unless swamped with urgent work, I can see many IP managers preferring to schmooze with colleagues and to attend lectures rather than sitting in their offices.  I suspect the coffee break refreshments and lunches provided also compare well to the canteen food or lunch voucher allowance of most hi-tech companies.

trainingIP boutiques are, of course, able to evaluate the relevance of the training for their different staff members, and will no-doubt consider this when deciding who to send to which conference.

As with all such conferences, some sessions will be highly relevant to one’s day to day work, but perhaps lacking in material one doesn’t already know. Similarly, some sessions will be focused on IP issues that may be completely irrelevant to one’s day to day practice.  In this regard, apart from keynote lectures, both conferences have parallel sessions, and one is advised to carefully select presentations to attend that are at least one of the adjectives selected from the group comprising: relevant, intellectually stimulating and informative.

bpip 2018The Best Practices in Intellectual Property conference hosted by Kim Lindy and the IPR is perhaps mis-named. Apart from one session on trade-secrets, the entire program is dedicated to patents and the conference is very much focused on practical aspects of patent management. The conference is particularly targeted at In-House counsel in industry and has much to interest independent patent attorneys in private practice, partners and attorneys at IP firms. However, it seems to have little of interest to those who earn their living managing trademark or copyright portfolios. Sadly in my opinion, it also does not address design law which is a rapidly changing field in Israel.

jam packedThere will be little at the “Best Practices in Intellectual Property” conference to interest academics. However, the program is jam-packed with relevant sessions for prosecuting patents and managing patent portfolios which is what very many in-house IP managers do, and also is the bread-and-butter work of most patent attorneys in private practice.

variety packThe AIPPI conference titled “The Economics of Innovation” uses the term innovation very widely and is much broader in scope than the “Best Practices in Intellectual Property” conference In that features sessions on trade-secrets, design law, trademarks, Copyright, traditional knowledge, taxation of IP and Internet & Privacy. Many of the sessions look at the issue of overlapping types of protection.

madagascan periwinkle

Madagascan Periwinkle, used to treat Hodgkin’s Disease

One of the AIPPI sessions is titled “Traditional Medicine – the influence of IP on Commercial Use and Economic Aspects”. This is not the first time the topic of traditional knowledge has been covered in Israel. Back in 2011, I helped
Dr Shlomit Yantizky Ravid of ONO Academic College organize a three-day traditional knowledge conference that brought representatives from a large number of developing countries and sympathetic US academics that was sponsored by WIPO.  Dr Irving Treitel, a patent attorney who deals with life science patents, especially pharmaceuticals (who was then working for me at JMB Factor & Co.) responded on behalf of the profession. Prof. Shuba Ghosh was the keynote speaker then, as now. Despite much advertising in the press, only some 30-40 people participated in the conference – virtually all speakers of foreign delegates. Apart from Dr Treitel and myelf, I don’t recall any other IP practitioners attending that free conference. I applaud the AIPPI bringing IP issues to the attention of local practitioners, but I doubt that this session will attract a large attendance despite the prestigious panelists.

 

taxCertainly patent attorneys, whether in-house or in private practice, should be familiar with the different types of protection available to be able to advise or at least refer clients.  Patent Attorneys should also be aware of tax issues, at least broadly, to be able to refer their clients to accountants where appropriate to do so. There are very many large US firms registered in Delaware that conduct R&D in Israel. There are also many firms that are physically based in Israel, but decide to incorporate in the US for political reasons, and these include start-ups as well as larger firms. I have clients that have fairly small staff but are incorporated as an IP holding company that owns the patents, trademarks, copyrights and designs and a separate manufacturing company that licenses the IP assets. The tax issues are not something that a patent attorney deals with, but attorneys-in-law may practice IP and tax law, and in-house legal counsel may deal with IP and taxation.  Apart from understanding how tax issues affect their own income and how various taxes can be legally avoided and what is considered illegal evasion and criminal, I believe that IP professionals not practicing tax law should nevertheless have a general grasp of the tax issues that face their clients to be able to advise them where they should seek guidance from a tax attorney, accountant of tax-consultant.

In summary, both conferences are value for money. People only having the time or budget to attend one should consider which one to go very carefully, and it is worth working out in advance which sessions to attend.


CORRECTION Re – Third International Conference on the Economics of Innovation

February 13, 2018

mistakesI try to be factually accurate and helpful to my readership. However, occasionally mistakes happen. A couple of days ago I posted about the Third International Conference on the Economics of Innovation to be held in Israel under the auspices of the AIPPI in Israel between 30 April and 1 May 2018.

I received a press-release from the Israel Patent Office with a link to the website of the conference, so took details from there. I noted that the opening speakers were two Israel Nobel Laureates:

  • Prof. Ada Yonat, The Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology.
  •  Prof. Aaron Ciechanover, Technion

I commented that both were certainly eminent scientists in their fields, but if the conference organizers want Nobel Laureates to talk about the Economics of Innovation, one or both of Israel’s Nobel Laureates in Economics would be a better choice.

mistake EinsteinI’d like to think that the conference organizers follow my advice, and I do note that some of my criticisms of the first and second International Conferences have been addressed this time around, but I doubt that within a couple of days of my posting my criticism, the organizers would disinvite two such distinguished speakers. Nevertheless, they are not coming.

francis gurryInstead the current program as advertised has a video greeting from Mr. Francis Guri [sic], WIPO president – a gimmick I enjoyed at a premiere cercle IP conference last year. Watching a VIP on-screen is not that exciting as in the flesh, and to be honest, I don’t think there is a major demand for autographs from WIPO presidents. (Indeed, when I was Guest of Honour at the AIPPI International Conference in Paris a few years back, I don’t recall anyone asking me for my autograph). Nevertheless, we assume that Francis Gurry (which is the correct spelling and should be corrected in the program) is perfectly competent to give an informed lecture on various aspects of IP. We suspect however, that his words of welcome will be more platitudes than substance.

ASHER_D._GRUNISThe opening session is instead being given by Judge (retired) Asher Grunis, President of the Supreme Court of Israel 2012 – 2015 on “Judge made law in the field of intellectual property”. Judge Gronis gave several IP decisions over his long and illustrious career, such as Toffiffee, Adidas, Dior, Shemesh restaurantsBalugan – Spinmaster, etc.

aharon aharonJudge Grunis’ talk is being followed by one by Mr. Aharon Aharon, CEO, Israel Innovation Authority. The title of Mr. Aharon Aharon’s talk is not published in the program, but it is clear that he has some influence over Israel govt. policy regarding promoting innovation.

I view the change of opening speakers favorably, as both should have something to say that is relevant to IP issues which may well not be the case with Nobel laureates in science, despite their eminence in their fields.

For reviews of the first Israel AIPPI conference From IP to NP (net profit) see here and here. For a review of the Second Israel AIPPI conference here.

The second mistake in Sunday’s post, noted by both IP KAT and leading Israel Trademark Attorney, Neil Wilkof, and by Patent Attorney David Silver, was that I put the price for Israelis which is 1600 Shekels down as $1600 by mistake. I have corrected that typo is Sunday’s post.


Third International Conference on the Economics of Innovation

February 11, 2018

aippiThe Israel Chapter of the AIPPI is hosting their third Conference on the Ecomomics of Innovention between 30 April and 1 May 2018, which is a few weeks after the 6th Best Practices in Intellectual Property Conference organized by Kim Lindy and the In-House Forum, and three weeks before the 140th INTA conference in Seattle (which coincides with Shavuot.

I am posting this to give those interested in attending advanced notice of the event. However, as the program at the link is labeled not for distribution, it may be premature to comment on the topics covered and the speaker list.

NobelWhat is impressive, however, is that the opening addresses include two Israel Nobel Laureates:

  • Prof. Ada Yonat, The Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology.
  •  Prof. Aaron Ciechanover, Technion

what-is-economicsNobel Prizes are not given out like sweets, and being able to hear presentations by two Nobel Laureates without having to go to the Swedish Academy of Sciences is no-doubt an impressive draw. It occurred to me, however, that if this conference was really about the economics of innovation, It would make more sense to invite Professor Daniel Kahaneman or Professor Robert Aumann. It seems to me that these laureates, being economists, would have more of value to say about the subject of the conference.

I have read Professor Kahaneman and watched interviews of him on television. I have also heard Professor Aumann lecture (and been bird watching with him in the Golan – but that’s a different story). Both are accomplished speakers and apart from their subjects actually being economics, their fields of expertise are less specialized and more accessible to a wider audience than those of the keynote speakers.  Except the Conference on the Economics of Invention is not about the economics of invention. The title is simply a form of branding that enables the organizers to bill it as the third conference.  That said, the sessions as currently advertised do look interesting and varied, and one expects that participants will not be disappointed.

Like any two-day conference that is held every couple of years, the subject matter of the tentative program is a reasonable attempt to cover a wide range of topics and to try to ensure that there is something for everyone. As there appears to be parallel sessions, one assumes that most people will be find something of interest most of the time, and one can’t really ask for more.

The conference costs 1600 Shekels for two days ($480) which seems good value for money when compared to similar conferences overseas. For Israelis there is both less traveling and Kosher food. For overseas visitors, Israel is a great place to come for a conference and to tag on a pilgrimage to the holy sites and/or trips to the various Roman archaeological remains that are as impressive as those in Italy or elsewhere. it is also a great destination for ornithologists or simply for those looking for a beach holiday and good restaurants.


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.