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.

IP, Genetic Resources, Social Justice, and Development

September 10, 2015

The final Friday Session titled “IP, Genetic Resources, Social Justice, and Development” was chaired by Claire Foster-Gilbert, Director of the Westminster Abbey Institute.
Professor Ruth Okediji, William L. Prosser Professor of Law, University of Minnesota Law School gave a talk titled “Am I my brother’s keeper? Stewardship and the emerging international framework for the protection of genetic resources and Traditional Knowledge” where she cited Leviticus 19:9 and Deuteronomy 26:19 (and Christian Bible equivalents) which relate to the commandments of, when harvesting, leaving dropped wheat stalks for the poor to glean, leaving forgotten sheaves and not harvesting the last corner.

ruth 2
This struck me as quite appropriate for someone named Ruth as the Book of Ruth describes these commandments in action. Professor Okedji’s noted that we are custodians rather than out and out owners, that bounty comes from God and when bringing a drug to market, there is a social obligation to remember the poor.

Professor Ruth Okediji is a member of the Living World Christian Center, a non-denominational, full gospel church, which is probably the kind of service that would result from crossing Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach with Tina Turner.
What was significant about her talk was that it was the first attempt by any of the lecturers to cite Scripture and to relate religious obligations, which none of the Bishops felt comfortable doing.

Professor Graham Dutfield, Professor of International Governance, University of Leeds School of Law, Member of the International Scholars Networks of Intellectual Property in the Biosciences spoke on “Intellectual Property, Indigenous Customary Law, and the Benefit-Sharing Debate: Can it ever be resolved?” The talk was very much one of debunking standard paradigms given with enthusiasm and humour.  Memoriably, he noted that fabulously long incomprehensible sentences with a smattering of commas and the occasional random semicolons in IP treaties were invariably the result of careful negotiation, leaving each of the parties free to interpret as they like.
Professor Dutfield was followed by Dr Carlo Marenghi, IP & Trade Attaché: Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the UN Office in Geneva & WTO who spoke on Intellectual Property Rights and Global Policy Challenges: energizing the multilateral system. The conference broke up, to reconvene with a formal banquet sponsored by Syngenta, which indicated seemed like enlightened self interest by the global seed giant.

Patents on Life: The Roles of Ethics, Commerce, and Religion

September 10, 2015


The first afternoon session was entitled “Patents on Life: The Roles of Ethics, Commerce, and Religion” and was Chaired by Professor Tom Berg of the University of St Thomas, Minnesota.

syngenta  Dr Michael Kock, Global Head of IP, Syngenta spoke on “Patents for life: Towards an ethical use of patents on plant innovations”. Unfortunately, Dr Kock has a German accent that is reminiscent of 1960s style war movies, but his presentation as excellent. It purported to look for a balance between corporate greed and the public good and to critically examine genetic engineering, however, essentially was a very informative and persuasive corporate presentation on why none of our crops can be considered natural, noting that carrots were white, until they were crossed with the Persian purple carrot in nineteenth century Holland as a tribute to the Royal House of Orange, to create the orange root we are familiar with. He argued convincingly, that all food was genetically modified.

Dr Kock focused on why introducing a rot resistant gene from Chinese cabbage into cauliflower, white cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc. by genetic engineering was more efficient than selective breeding. However he didn’t really discuss the more controversial topic of transplanting a gene from one genus to another, with the implicit Spiderman worries.  True, the presentation was a carefully crafted presentation from industry. Nevertheless, it does put things into some sort of perspective. He suggested a radical arbitration mechanism based on game theory and the prisoner’s dilemma to determine the correct licensing royalty in IP disputes.

painting the roses red

Professor Margo A. Bagley, of theUniversity of Virginia School of Law ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’: Morality and Misappropriation in Life Sciences Patenting” and Professor Paul Heald, Professor of Law, University of Illinois spoke about “One Nation Under Pfizer (or maybe Monsanto)”.

I wondered what Father Gregor Mendel  would have thought of it all.

During yet another coffee break, to clarify the point that popular opinion on genetic engineering and science is based on ignorance, someone told me that when presented with a ripe tomato and told that it contained 350,000 genes, 80% of respondents were horrified and wouldn’t eat it.

Post Script on Traditional Knowledge

November 9, 2011

Apparently, South Africa, the rainbow state, has now legislated traditional knowledge rights.

At least one prominent South African IP academic, Professor Owen Dean, considers this a mistake, describing the initiative as Mad Hatter in Wonderland,  See here. 

South Africa was represented at the WIPO Traditional Knowledge conference in Israel last month. See Israel Hosts International Conference on Traditional Knowledge

We note that South Africa does not examine patents prior to issuing them, and only reviews their validity prior to enforcement in the courts. this anachronistic state of affairs has resulted in patents issuing for well-known inventions.



Israel Hosts International Conference on Traditional Knowledge

October 26, 2011

The Ono Academic College in Israel, together with WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization brought representatives from a large number of developing countries and sympathetic US academics together in a three-day conference on traditional knowledge.

We applaud Li Maor who sits at the WIPO desk handling Israel, for pushing to host the event in Israel and for the work she must have done behind the scenes in persuading WIPO to fund the program. Bringing academics and civil servants to Israel is good for Israel’s image, and good for tourism.

WIPO sponsored the flights and hotels, and also a reception for the participants. Ono provided the venue and refreshments, and raised additional funding for some touring. The Israel Patent Office also chipped in, hosting a final session in Jerusalem, with a second reception.

Part of the program, consisted of closed sessions where official delegates debated how to advance the agenda of an international treaty on traditional knowledge. The first day and a half were open to the public.

After speeches by WIPO and Ono representatives, Prof. Braverman, an economist who is a member of the Labour Party gave a nice welcoming speech, slightly marred by him acknowledging that he wasn’t really sure what the event was about or what he was doing there.

The main program was opened by Prof. Shuba Ghosh of the University of Wisconsin gave the keynote address, explaining what Traditional Knowledge is. Dr. Shlomit Ravid, the coordinator of the event from Ono gave a second general lecture, posing questions rather than providing answers. She illustrated her position with examples from local culture and concluded that traditional knowledge cannot be considered as property per se. but can perhaps be considered as being a type of quasi-IP. We note that Intellectual Property is itself only a quasi property right, and feel that an explanation of what she meant by a quasi-IP right and the ramifications thereof would have been useful.

Each speaker was followed by a respondent. One Russian representative actually attempted to respond to points raised, but was handicapped by poor English. Other respondents simply presented their work to protect or capitalize on their national traditional knowledge resources.

What was unfortunate is that the program lacked balance. There was a clear agenda to create rights for indigenous peoples in their traditional knowledge (or TKs). Wend Wendland, the Director of the Traditional Knowledge Division at WIPO, went so far as to explain that there is a timeframe to create a treaty within the next 12 months and that the event is perhaps the most significant IP development since TRIPS.

There was, however, no rigorous philosophical underpinning presented to justify the new right. The traditional IP rights attempt to strike a balance between the creator and the public domain with the patent system and copyright both being designed to reward creativity, thereby providing an incentive to create and to expand human knowledge and cultural expression. The rationale for rights in traditional knowledge was not adequately explained and I suspect, is not there.

Rigorous academic analysis was most conspicuous by its absence.  For example, Dr. Nicholas Bramble of Yale University noted that Vincristine, extracted from the Madagascan Periwinkle is used to treat Hodgkin’s disease. Though the plant’s beneficial properties were known in folk medicine for hundreds of years, the Madagascans never received anything from the development of the drug by Eli Lilly resulting in them doing significant ecological damage to their environment to generate income.  Bramble’s position is based on an assumption that the natives of Madagascar have rights to financial compensation for research into plants that were used in traditional Madagascan folk medicine and a further assumption that there is a causative link between the lack of compensation and ecological damage to Madagascar. Eli Lilly discovered the bone marrow suppressive properties in experiments on mice with leukemia. One can assume that the Madagascan population had no traditional knowledge of  leukemia or of the function of bone marrow. I suspect that the same ecological damage over the past 50 years since this discovery would have occurred regardless of whether the indigenous population would have received some type of royalty, since having one source of income does little to deter exploitation of other sources.

I found myself wondering why no one had thought to extract some payment from Disney on behalf of the indigenous population, subsequent to their depicting the fauna, flora and beaches of the island in the animated movie Madagascar?

One of the clearest and most interesting presentations was by Dr. Sheila Foster of Fordham University who gave some insights into land use decisions in an urban context. She admitted that she had no background in IP, but felt that her field of research could provide some insights. Unfortunately this is not the case. The insights learned from her field of research relate to maximizing usage of limited resources, and to the value of providing property rights to such resources so that they are managed properly. Knowledge is, however, not a limited resource.

There is value in conserving biodiversity and cultural expressions of all sorts to enrich the human experience. This could place a responsibility on countries and populations, but is not a justification for their having commercial rights to their traditional knowledge. I think the mandate for so doing is not WIPO’s but really belongs to UNESCO.

It’s not merely that knowledge is not a limited resource and that present day indigenous people have not created their traditional knowledge and providing rights over it does not encourage the creation of additional traditional knowledge, although could certainly encourage the classification of more knowledge as such.  No one addressed the issue that the flow of knowledge and wealth occurs in both directions. The third world can access vast amounts of knowledge created in the developed world and published in patent literature and academic journals without contributing substantively to its creation. This knowledge is paid for using Western taxpayer’s money. The developed world also contributes to health in the developing world via the World Health Organization, via charities such as Medicines Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) and Oxfam. The great capitalists like Bill Gates often donate vast sums to philanthropic works. I suspect that the funding for this conference originated in the developed countries as well…

The program was advertised in the Israel press.  WIPO also sent direct emails to Israeli IP practitioners and ONO contacted their graduate lists. Unfortunately, the attendance on the first morning was, by my count, around 50, which dropped to 30 after lunch. (One of the orgnaizers from ONO claims 65 dropping to 40, but I was counting people in the room). WIPO provided a reception on the first day, catering for some 200 participants. Apparently less than 30 people stayed for this. Due to a family Bar Mitzva celebration, I couldn’t stay for the WIPO reception, but attended the academic program, or at least as much of it as I could, since everything was running appallingly late.  The second day also attracted a mere 30-40 participants. In other words, apart from speakers, organizers and guests flown in by WIPO, the event was patronized by two other patent attorneys, one of whom left at lunch time on the first day, and one professional from a tech transfer company.

I think that there a number of reasons for the poor turnout by local practitioners. These included a clear political agenda to the event, rather than a proper academic inquiry. This was evident from the adverts in the press, linking the event to social justice demonstrations, through the invitation to a Labor Party parliamentarian to open the event, to the lack of balance in the program without any presentations suggesting that traditional knowledge is not a commercial property.  The topic of traditional knowledge is also fairly esoteric and of less practical relevance to practitioners than, say, the recent patent reform in the US.

In the wrap up session on the second day before adjourning to tour the sites of Jerusalem, patent examiners and Dr. Moshe Tritel, who heads the life sciences division of our firm, related to where patent law is with regards to medical treatments and traditional knowledge. Moshe spoke excellently, clearly and with authority, but, as would be expected from a patent attorney rather than a political activist or academic, described the rationale for the current system and explained how the patent issues for the contribution over that previously known if not previously revealed, and doesn’t award all previous contributions. He suggested that IP law wasn’t the place to address third world grievances. Not surprisingly, the representatives of Ecuador and Tanzania, found his position a little unpalatable.

Adv. Eliamani Laltaika of Tanzania gave an excellent and impassioned response. One point he raised was that the geographic source of plants of animals whose tissues were used in a product should be acknowledged in the patent specification. This idea was rejected by Dr. Tritel as placing additional burdens on inventors.

It occurs to me that it should be hardly more difficult from the duties of disclosure of prior art existing in Israel and the US, and on the practice of the EPO and other offices to require certain information such as closest publications, referenced in the background of the patent specification. Judaism  has a long tradition of recognizing the moral rights of sources of traditions, knowledge, intelligence and sayings, to be named. Occasionally, where individuals are not known, the nationality or ethnic source of knowledge is recognized. The academic community references sources of ideas. Where something is traditional knowledge or where a plant comes from a geographic location, I see no reason not to reference this.

Academics who should have known better, pointed to the success of various developing countries in amending their IP laws to require incorporation of such sources.  Many Western corporations don’t bother filing in such countries, due to the lack of commercial justification for so doing.

I suspect that the lack of involvement by patent attorneys and IP lawyers in the development of the program contributed to the lack of interest by the profession in the end result. Of course, if an international treaty having more substance than the vacuous drafts currently available from WIPO does get wide ratification, this could change the IP world significantly and lawyers and patent attorneys may be surprised.

Ethiopia Receives US Trademark for Sidamo Coffee

March 8, 2008

Ethiopia has obtained a trademark forSidamo, one of her speciality coffees, despite opposition from Starbucks. Ethiopians claim that coffee drinking started there. True or not, third world countries protecting their IP assetts is to be encouraged. 

International Chamber of Commerce Publishes Roadmap in Arabic

July 18, 2007

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has published an Arabic version of the 2007 roadmap on current and emerging intellectual property (IP) issues Read the rest of this entry »