Friday, June 06, 2008

Stairway to Heaven aka "VAP"

Today's title isn't some form of subtle advertisement for a 70's rockband song or some hallucinogenic reverie (although...), but a reference to the recently released communiqué by the French PTO (, about the organisation of the upcoming session for "validation des acquis professionnels" and consequent registration as a person qualified to practice IP.

Nothing to do with vapour or ephemerism whatsoever, except that it remains to be seen whether the legislative text behind this organisation will still be applicable once we have all become Avocats (that word just seems to creep in everywhere, doesn't it ?).

Just a quick recap : the French IP profession consists of about 800 registered specialists in private practice. This number is considered by the government authorities to be largely insufficient (and I tend to agree). In an attempt to overcome the stagnation that has beset our profession over the past 25 years, the government has thus decided to organise, in line with national policies in other sectors in France on training and recognition of professional experience, a means of becoming a registered IP practitioner without having to sit those awful and extremely arbitrary qualifying examinations that all of us middle-agies had to go through. With the merger with the Bar looming, and the consequence of increasingly difficult and lengthy examination spans to be introduced, there has been pressure put on the PTO to organise a professional experience recognition or VAP-session to swell the ranks of current practising membership as much as possible. On a side note, the PTO has also just announced the organisation of the qualifying examinations sessions as well, for those who are of a masochistic inclination.

I'm not going to translate the communiqué for would-be readers, because if you want to have any hope of being accepted, you need to have at least some inkling of French, so it'll be a good test for you. Suffice it to say that this session is open to all and sundry having worked in IP for at least 8 years, and meeting the other formal requirements (higher education degree in law or a science based subject), plus an equivalent diploma or education to that dispensed by the CEIPI in Strasbourg for IP studies.

The deadline for applying is September 8th, 2008 (midnight at the latest), as witnessed by the date postmark on your registered letter of application (with acknowledgement of receipt).

The oral interviews are to be held on October 20th, 2008. These interviews serve to ascertain the truth of the declarations relating to the acquired professional experience, and the depth of knowledge of the candidate with regard to our code of professional ethics. The jury will also have the possibility to question the candidates on their professional experience. Hmm, I wonder who's going to be chosen to do jury service, will it be a voluntary thing, or will we all have to take it in turns to do our bit for the promotion of our dying breed ? Lie back and think of France I can imagine the scene now : me thinking, mmm, yes, that gorgeous deep ruby red Cahors would go down really well just now - "I'm sorry, Mademoiselle, what was that you were saying about your patent drafting experience..." as my numbed brain is brought back to reality - now what was I saying about Stairways to Heaven and hallucinogenic experiences...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Too many cooks...

In the continuing saga of "Who wants to be an Avocat ?" (shouldn't that be a "millionaire" ? - I'll take both, thanks), a flurry of activity has recently occurred, none of which I've found particularly surprising, but hey, that's the cynic in me once again.

I was informed yesterday, by the Anti-Merger brigade, followed closely but belatedly (1-0 to the antis, sorry chaps) by the CNCPI bureau, that someone, somewhere, in government circles attempted to hang an amendment relating to the merger, to the end of a completely unrelated piece of legislative text relating to community harmonisation of French company law going through the Senate - these kind of tactics are fairly representative of the legislative process in France - in which, "the Government would have been authorised to issue, by means of ordinance, the necessary arrangements for the merger of the professions of Avocat and CPI..."

Shock horror !!! Errmm, no, not really, just the usual parliamentary jostling, abuse of influence, and other rather shady and undemocratic tactics that we see every day. Hmm, and the French poke fun at Italy and its successive governments - people in glass houses once again...

Needless to say, had this amendment been voted, then the government's plan was to have everything settled within 9 months or so, with or without the cooperation of the interested parties. These underhand tactics however, were apparently not to the liking of the French Economics Minister, Mme Lagarde, and a few other senators, who managed to have the amendment withdrawn before debate on the legislation commenced.

It remains to be seen who or what was responsible for proposing this amendment (if we ever find out at all, transparency of the workings of parliament not being particularly well defined).

The CNCPI Bureau offered a rather dull, and watered down "letter of information", including the text of the proposed amendment, if only to serve as counter propaganda against the Antis, in an attempt (rather feeble, IMHO) to show that it was mindful of our (the CPIs) desiderata whilst at the same time congratulating the government on having taken such an initiative.

Politics, politics. Who'd have thought that a simple thing like dealing with 790 professionals would cause so much political intrigue...

All of this does go to show that, ultimately, the fate of our profession is in the hands of those who have sufficient influence in higher political circles to add such amendments, or have them added to pending legislation by person's sympathetic to the requestee's cause. However, now that there are clearly other cooks involved in making the broth than just the two main chefs, the soup might just get burnt.

Speaking of which, time for lunch...

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Aftermath

Bar Association Merger (aka Takeover, Take-away, Take me to the Cleaners - and other silly innuendos and puns)

Round 1, May 13th 2008

In favour : 260
Against : 236
Abstentions : 4

A rather hollow victory for the Bureau of the CNCPI then, it seems. Amid clamours of voting irregularities - why did the voting start although the presentations and discussions hadn't yet finished ? - and people being refused the right to vote despite having registered on time (an appeal anyone ?), it doesn't look like the Bureau can strut victoriously around the battlefield, as it has had a tendency to do so previously, making unsupported statements (hmm, they must have been reading my blog :-p ). Indeed, the battle has only just begun, and the crowd aren't really behind them.

The results of the vote clearly show however that there is now a nearly 50/50 split in our profession, and whatever happens next, that split will not easily be mended. For the comments, I direct you once again to the "sort of official but not really" CNCPI blog at, and of course to Mr. Breesé's own appraisal of the situation (

So, now that the hurly burly is done, and we've met on the heath to pick through the dead and wounded, what next ?

The Bureau will now have to go before the French Bar Association, brandishing an AK47 full of blanks knowing full well that the welcoming committee on the other end is a squadron full of ninjas armed with the ultimate weapon - legislative lobbying power. Oh yes, the Avocats have that alright, just look at the French President, he's an avocat (hmm, best not move onto sticky political wickets), and there are many more in the realms of power. The simple truth of it is that us poor CNCPIs don't have that kind of firepower, and it doesn't really look like our Minister of Commerce is ready to get involved in the fray in our favour. One might even say that the silence of the INPI and its corresponding ministry is noticeably deafening, and certainly does not bode well for the future.

I have gleaned a little enlightenment from the bloodbath however (it must have been the Celtic berserker frenzy that led me to a higher astral plane). It is now seems clear that whatever the solution adopted, once the transitional period for getting as many people in as possible is over (this looks to be like anything between 5 and 8 years after entry into force for those not already qualified, and 10 years for the IP boutiques and IP Counsel already in business), there will be no possibility for anyone else not registered as a Avocat or "Avocat Conseil en Propriété Intellectuelle" to practise IP law in France. European Patent and Trademark Attorneys, ie. the rest of the European patent and trademark attorney community, will remain simple filing and prosecution agents, but will not be authorised to practise law on French soil. Well, if such a situation is ever enacted into law, we shall have to see what short shrift (if any) the ECJ will make of it, because someone is bound to appeal against such a flagrant restraint on the right to practise in the EU. It should be an interesting challenge, in light of the fact that there is to my knowledge as yet no European-wide harmonisation on who is entitled to practise law, or to which degree a given category of professionals might be entitled to do so.

Well, I suppose all that remains to be said is "Good luck" to the Bureau, rather them than me, I'm much happier waiting my turn to be thrown to the lions, but like any good sacrifice, I'll go down fighting for the benefit of the crowd !!! (prod me once more with that trident and I'll kill you with my bare hands, oh sorry, its a taser, bzzzzrrttt)

Sincerest salutations (you gotta love French letter writing formalisms), and see you all soon.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Red Button and CPI Meltdown


Yes, indeed. Houston, we have a problem. We have gone nuclear. When I talked about "things hotting up" in my last post on the topic of the merger of IP attorneys and the French Bar, I was expressing what I suppose one would in hindsight call "typical British understatement". The proposal to vote on a merger in somewhat "fuzzy" conditions was the metaphorical Red Button that the Bureau of the CNCPI pressed, and in true Gallic style aimed at its own foot, a hotbed of bubbling, unstable, fissile mass.

In the space of 2 weeks, the exchanges on the CNCPI blog (, and those of Mr. Pierre Breesé ( have attained more than a critical mass, and what appears to be irreparable meltdown is now in progress. People have been stabbing each other anonymously, and rather cowardly in my own humble opinion, in the back, with some unpleasant personal attacks, and most of all, there has been a huge cloud of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that has been disseminated amongst the ranks. We are now all suffering from a form of poisoning by all accounts similar to a tab of LSD, where those of the Bureau see Diamonds in the Sky, and the opponents the grimmest spectres of a Hollywood horror film.

There are those, however, who have managed to float above carnage and have taken a loftier, more critical view (they must have a good supplier, a jet pack or a NBC suit). I cite Mr. Breesé, as one, who like myself, was initially in favour of the merger, but upon having seen what the French Bar wanted to impose on us "engineers" (how common we must seem) and future generations, and in light of the vague assertions of our beloved bureau and CNCPI President, has reappraised his position for one of : "Now just wait a minute, just who is driving this train, and why are we headed for that rickety old bridge ?"

Who indeed ? A group of people committed to the merger, of that there is no doubt. A merger at all costs, despite reassurances to the contrary. A merger from which there will be no going back, no sirree. One in which our European counterparts are smugly laughing behind our backs as they watch us tear ourselves apart, driven to madness. As in all wars, the crows will inevitably have carrion to feed on.

One thing is certain, and that is that nothing is at all certain, at least in terms of how the divergent positions between the French Bar and the resolutory conditions laid down by the CNCPI Bureau are to be reconciled. In the end, 790 CPIs against nearly 50,000 barristers is but a drop in the ocean, not even a worm to a hungry thrush. Either the barristers will get their own way, or the government will weigh in. Unfortunately, the government is not in the Bar Association's good books at the moment, having done the dirty on them with the recent reform of the court system and closure of many provincial courts, so the Bar Association has a couple of Aces up its sleeve which it is sure to lay down before the day is done, and the government, in a soothing gesture, will no doubt bend like a willow in the wind, rather than face the ire once again.

Where will this leave us, ex-CPIs and soon-to-be Avocats ? If one is to believe the arguments put forward by the CNCPI Bureau, we will be more visible and more competitive in Europe. Hmmm. I have still yet to see how that will be so, nor even any evidence in the form of a published economic study.

Will our prices go up ? Probably. Go Europe. French industry, renowned for its unwillingness to invest in the "immaterial", will be sorely inclined to leave us for cheaper pastures outside of France, or boost or create their own internal IP departments where they will be able to manage costs.

How will we become all of a sudden more competitive in the European market ? Certainly not with the trickle of scientists gullible or suicidal enough to want to spend at least 8 to 10 years further study attempting to qualify.

Oh yes, how stupid of me, OUR NEW TITLE "Avocat specialisé en Propriété Intellectuelle". Must be worth a couple of bob, at least.

How about the increased litigation I will be able to conduct and plead in court ? As one member of the profession has pointed out, there is a fundamental ethical and professional liability problem in procuring patent rights and then having to defend them yourself in an invalidity suit.

Of the same ilk, the question pertaining to saisie-contrefaçon : are barristers representing the client's interest entitled to carry out the seizure knowing what it is they are looking for because they drafted the patent, without infringing the fundamental rights to fair process of the alleged infringer ? Under existing French case law, a CPI does not infringe the Human Rights of the alleged infringer, even if he is the usual representative for the plaintiff because he is considered an "independent expert". However, if he is the usual barrister, that situation may well change.

Perhaps we will end up with a situation similar to the US where a law firm will have litigation counsel and prosecution counsel, but we've got that in the current system with IP attorney and barrister, so why merge ?

The much awaited vote on the resolutions put to us takes place on May 13th. Will the result be a black hole or the birth of a new star ?

Oh no !! I can feel my skin is starting to peel and my hair fall out in tufts, must be the effect of the fallout, or the gravitational pull !! Or, perhaps, just perhaps, I'm getting old ;-)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Blog posting test from phone

This a quick phone post, will do something more consequential later. More juicy gossip from "the Aliens are coming" aka "Who wants to be an avocat ?"

Posted from moBlog – mobile blogging tool for Windows Mobile

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Labours of Herakles

Once more into the breech...since my last rant, I've now ascertained a slightly clearer picture of what is likely to be required of future engineering candidates looking to qualify as Avocat Conseil en Propriété Intellectuelle, assuming that the merger goes ahead that is, which, in view of recent diatribes on the CNCPI blog, no longer appears to be a foregone conclusion.

Here's the list as I now understand it, bearing in mind that the waters are still distinctly muddy:

1) Graduate with an engineering, science or equivalent technical, higher education degree
2) Go to Strasbourg and do the CEIPI 1 course (IP law) and pass the exam
3) Go to Strasbourg and do the CEIPI 2 course (general law, obligations, tort, community law, family law, constitutional law, etc) and pass the exam
4) Sit and pass the pre-CAPA (bar school entrance exam) - only 2 attempts allowed, period - current success rate 1 in 5
5) Sit and pass the EQE
6) Sit and pass the CAPA (bar accreditation exam) - pass rate, 1 in 20 ??

All in all, for a scientist who is working in an attorney firm, at least 6 years before even hoping to qualify, more likely 8 to 10 years if the candidate has any form of life outside studying, all of this on top of his/her initial scientific training. Well, hello, I'm the superman(woman) patent attorney you've all been dying to meet :-)

But let those who sit smug in their already qualified armchairs wipe the grin off their faces. The French Bar Association even wants those IP attorneys who are already patent attorneys without Master's Degrees in Law to do an obligatory training course in professional ethics and some form of basic general law just for them to be allowed admittance under the proposed new framework. Now that is something that the CNCPI negotiating committee certainly didn't bargain for, I'll wager.

Why do I get that awkward stomach churning feeling that we have all suddenly been sucked into a parallel world and spat out in Sodom & Gomorrah ?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Communication or Foreplay ?

The saga of our future digestion by the French bar association continues in a war of words, nay, blogs. Assiduous readers might remember that I recently attended an information meeting to try and find out more from my representative body, the CNCPI, or National Guild of French Patent Attorneys, of what form of seppuku our profession was on the verge of committing. Since then, things have moved on : the CNB have voted in favor of the merger, at an AGM, but as expected will require all future candidates, who are engineers or scientists to have accomplished the following :

1) Passed the CEIPI I examination (this is equivalent to the current CEIPI examination, minus a few hours training related to the EQE and the current French Patent Attorney qualifying examination)

2) Passed the CEIPI II examination : I'm still not quite sure what this involves in detail, other than learning about the law of obligations, liability and the barrister professional code of ethics.

3) Passed the EQE (European Patent Office Qualifying Examination) : quite why this has been included for scientists when normal barristers without any scientific knowledge can already represent clients at the EPO is beyond me.

4) Passed the CRFPA : this is basically the entrance exam to bar association recognition. The candidate can and will be questioned on any theme that may come up, IP being simply optional subjects in addition to the more classical ones like the theory of law, law of contracts, law of tort, etc, etc. It should be borne in mind that the scientist or engineer who sits this exam is basically supposed to have the knowledge in law of someone having studied that subject up to Master's level.

If this goes ahead, then it will probably sign the death of French technically qualified patent attorneys as we currently know them, since I doubt that many recently graduated scientists would want to embark on such an endeavour. This is already borne out by the incredibly low number of practising barristers in France who have scientific degrees.

Hello !!! Calling all non-French future patent attorneys !! As an employer, I would have to seriously consider whether it was economically viable to recruit a French scientist and train him up for at least 6 years in the hope that one day he might qualify. I would almost certainly be more likely to look for European counterparts that will still be patent attorneys in their native countries, and get them to learn French, which would in my opinion, be of far greater benefit (what could be more satisfying than learning to say "mine's another 'arf" to the barman in the native lingo of your customary bar of your French village ? Learning to say "no" to snails and frogs legs, and other such sundry French delicacies perhaps ?).

Anyway, as one might imagine, the propaganda machine of the CNCPI has had to step up its efforts a gear or two, because sharp criticism has been forthcoming in the face of blog contributions in French that appear to be springing up left, right and centre, and representing the views of the disgruntled masses, one of which, Pierre Breesé's blog (, is simply delightful. I recommend reading of this blog to those of you out there who read French and have an eye and taste for a bit of irony, parody and self-derision. Not to be outdone, however, the CNCPI has itself now set up a blog here ( Unfortunately, the blog is by all accounts moderated by an unknown Doctor at Law, who is neither a registered member of the CNCPI, nor a member of the corresponding industry-representation organisation ASPI. Whilst the comments appear to be freely submissible (at least so far), no mechanism has been put in place allowing contributors to define topics of their own for discussion. This gives the rather unfortunate impression that the debate is rather one-sided, at least in terms of the CNCPI official party line, so to speak. One wonders what, if anything, the CNCPI are actually going to do with the flow of comments that are building up under the first blog entry - give them a cursory smile ? track down the would-be renegades and burn them at the stake ? Bring out more massage oil in the shape of insidious e-mails depicting the world as a lovely place to be in, and oh, wouldn't you just so love to become an "Avocat" ?

Like I said in a previous entry, "bend over, this might hurt a little". Well at least this time around, they're giving us the massage and lubricant first.

In my own totally cynical way, I could say I don' t give a hoot what happens to those French youngsters who want to tread in my footsteps, after all, it'll make no difference to me. In the end, though, it will matter. We, are a dying breed (well aging anyway), and we don't have enough scientists to fill our shoes as it is. If none will wish to tread down the future path to "Avocat spécialisé en Propriété Intellectuelle" and instead seek more attainable objectives, then our profession is quite simply ready to become extinct.

So yes, CNCPI, please do touch me here, caress me there, I can't wait :-) Art thou the proverbial snake, leading me into temptation ?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Famous Last Words

"Captain, I cannae hold her" - sound familiar ? For all those Trekkie fans out there, I have some news : we, the French patent attorneys of this world, are going "where no man has gone before" (I'm not going to be politically correct for the sake of a quotation).

Yes, indeed. Such could be the conclusion one could have drawn from the meeting I attended on Tuesday afternoon organised by the National Guild of (French) Patent Attorneys. The trouble is, I don't really know where to start. I suppose it didn't help my understanding of the situation by my turning up late, but when one lives and works in the back of beyond like I do, getting to the meeting place on time was not necessarily an easy thing to organise. Unfortunately, and this is one of my pet gripes, the CNCPI is resolutely a centralised organisation with 99.9999% of its meetings taking place in central Paris and not necessarily near to an airport or a main railway station.

OK, so I turned up 10 minutes late. The meeting had already started, but fortunately not yet question time. Lucky me. I took a pew, strategically placed near to an exit, since I knew I would have to leave for a conference I was giving the other side of Paris later on the afternoon. And the floor was opened up to questions - I'll spare my non existent readership the pain of having to trawl through these questions and get to the point. What was all this about ?

Basically, the meeting was supposed to be informative. Unfortunately, I learned very little that I did not already know, surmise or suspect. Perhaps, had I stayed longer, I would indeed have learned something useful. The information was supposed to be about virtually anything related to the ongoing "negotiations" between the Guild and the Bar Association of France, by whom we are about to be devoured. During my time of attendance, the questions focused on the training requirements that would be necessary for any youngster or neophyte wishing to enter the profession and become a Avocat "spécialisé en propriété intellectuelle" (what is it with the French and pompous names, eh ?)

The upshot of most of what was said is that our Guild is basically in a "bend over, this might hurt a little" situation. In other words, there is no room for negotiation with the French Bar Association. This was more or less confirmed by the President of the Guild.

The French also seem to have got it into their heads that there is no European mutual recognition for IP Attorneys - while this may be true on paper, there is no European Union universal IP Attorney title, yet mutual recognition of titles exists, whether one likes it or not. Of course, one can not yet simply set up business as a barrister or other legal service representative in the EU if one doesn't have at least some form of recognition in one's own country, but recognition can and does happen on a EU level. Just because France has been fined on several occasions for its own protectionism in this regard, is by the by, but deliberately creating an internal system of training and qualification, as it looks like we are going to have, and which will make things significantly harder for new young entrants to the profession is not IMHO going to help our ailing and aging professional population.

OK, I hear you say, "what reasons are given for this elevation of professional status ?" Well, the ones I heard were a little hard to understand, and I'm in favour of the whole thing. I hate to think what the opponents of the movement must think - as the French say, "we're walking on our heads !!!"

- we're a test case for certain factions of the Bar Association that wish to see things change and introduce a specialisation for all barristers ; these factions are naturally interested in being able to manipulate the discussions the Guild is having to push the Bar Association towards "modernisation";

- everyone will look up to us as and recognise us as superior beings because we have such a long list of professional qualifications - errrmm, beg your pardon ??? I'm sorry, but my cynical side takes over here, and I have to admit having guffawed at the pomposity of replies such as these; the Guild continues in its longstanding tradition of inflating the image of our profession to over and beyond what it really is, but hey, I can puff up my chest too :-)

- the scaremongering approach : the spectre of deregulation looms and therefore we must run and shelter under the wings of Mother Hen aka the French Bar Association, but we can only do that if we give in to everything they ask of us. Hmmm, well, by the sounds of it, deregulation is coming, whether we like or not, and the barrister profession won't be spared - perhaps, with a bit of luck, we'll gain a few years more out of it before it finally hits us all - we'll just have to see at that time whether there is indeed "safety in numbers", but I doubt it.

So that's it. Not particularly brilliant. Then again, I'm probably far too cynical, too pessimistic, to be able to fully appreciate the context and developments that are overtaking the profession. Yet despite all of this, I remain in favour of the merger, mainly for purely personal reasons, but I don't think that the current developments will favour entry into the French profession of engineers or scientists with the current or even projected scheme of training available in France.

As an employer, I might be inclined to look into having my juniors train and qualify outside of France, and then take the European Union recognition or French 8 year experience route, or even just take on qualified non-French staff if they speak French. It doesn't necessarily mean that they'll be any worse or better than their "newly qualified" French counterparts.

Stay tuned for another nail-biting episode : "Beam me up, Scottie"

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Grandfather Patent Attorneys Revisited

The French government has just published a decree indicatining how people with a minimum of 8 years experience in Intellectual Property can apply to become registered industrial property attorneys with the French Patent and Trademark Office. The full text can be found here

The aim of the decree is twofold :

- satisfy the present government's requirement to open up the profession and do away with a rather antiquated examination board, discretionary examination papers and marking system ;

- satisfy the National Guild of Industrial Patent Attorneys, who are currently in the throes of a race to try and get as many candidates qualified as possible before we all become Avocats (see my earlier post on that hot topic), and the conditions for entry become noticeably harder, at least for engineers or candidates with a scientific background who would normally have become patent attorneys.

I have summarised the main points of the decree below :

1) The jury referred to in Article R. 421-6 of the Intellectual Property Code (CPI) will meet at least twice a year (Ed - this is a vast improvement on the current examination scheme of 2 yearly examination sessions, alternating between trademarks and patents)

2) The request for entry on the list of qualified persons must be sent to the Director of the Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle (INPI aka French PTO) by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt.

The request must include :

1° A signed and dated request by the candidate indicating the speciality(ies) for which the candidate requires registration, i.e "brevets d'invention" (patents) and/or "marques ou dessins et modèles" (trademarks or industrial designs).

2° A photocopy of some form of formal personal identification (note that in France, driver's licences do not generally constitute valid personal ID, so you have to show a valid resident's card or a passport).

3° A photocopy of one of the diplomas mentioned at 1° or 2° of Article R. 421-1 CPI. These include the following : a higher education degree or diploma from a University or equivalent institution in law, science or technology, optionally obtained through a recognised further professional training program.

4° A diploma from the Centre d'études internationales de la propriété industrielle (CEIPI) at the University of Strasbourg, or an equivalent title obtained through a recognised further professional training program. (Ed - the conditions of recognition by the French state of such training programs are laid down elsewhere by law).

5° A signed declaration of professional experience attesting to the exactitude of qualifying professional activity (i.e. work in Intellectual Property), issued by the employer or tutor under whose responsability the candidate has acquired the experience. The declaration must include a list of responsabilities and activities engaged in by the candidate during his/her professional experience and their duration ; the declaration can include details relating to the prosecution and filing of industrial property titles, or their defense and litigation.
The candidate is allowed to include any other form of evidence that it considers relevant to its request in relation to justifying its professional experience in IP. If the 8 year period of experience has been acquired under the responsability of several different persons, each such person must provide a corresponding declaration.

6° The request must be accompanied by evidence of payment of the required fee which will be decided by the French PTO's administrative council.
The jury will examine all requests that reach the Director of the French PTO at the latest one month before the date at which a meeting of the jury is planned.
The jury will check the candidate's understanding, at an oral interview, of the ethical rules of conduct of the profession, and can, if it deems necessary, hear the candidate on the nature and reality of its professional experience (Ed - just in case you manage to falsify all of the other papers required !!!! - doh !!!!).

Well, I still don't know who is going to sit on the jury, my most recent understanding was that there might at least be one or two registered IP attorneys, the rest being members of the judiciary, the French PTO, and the Bar Association.

One would assume that the French PTO is still going to run a check for "morality", as they called it, i.e. check to see whether the candidate had a past criminal record or not, and yes that check extends to asking the police force in foreign countries about the shady (or not-so shady) past of non-French candidates.

Of course, if you are a foreigner, have all the required experience and documentation, then it should be relatively easy to get on the list. From there, its only a small step to becoming an "Avocat", just wait for us to merge with them early next year, whey hey !!!!!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Scores on the Doors

Yes, the "Ayes" have it, or had it, yesterday, at the AGM of the National Guild of Industrial Property Counsel in France. A massive 66% voted in favour of the resolution for the Guild to continue talks with the French Bar Association with an aim to proposing a text to the Ministry of Justice that would allow for merger of the two professions.

Despite the attempted disruption by the old guard, the motion went through, although by all accounts it was somewhat "mouvementé" as we say over here. However, all is not packaged and parcelled as neatly as one might assume from the results above. Oh no, democracy (or should I say, bureaucracy ?) above all else has to be seen to be respected - this is France, after all, the birthplace of the people's revolution (hmmm, better not wander off down that track). Forget the babbling, what I mean is that we will have to have another vote once the agreement has been hammered out with the Bar Association, and there are plenty of opportunities for the "Nays" to scupper the project and send us all back into oblivion or early retirement. Indeed, in the true "democratic" fashion, the Nays are requiring a qualified majority for that vote, scheduled on February 19th, 2008, for the vote to even be considered valid. I must admit to not being aware of the various quorum requirements for subjects like this within our representative body, so am unable to comment. I will undoubtedly just vote with my feet, as they say, and make sure that my vote goes to the "Ayes".

Told you it was going to be gripping stuff, its about the most exciting thing that's happened to us since the Guild was created (which isn't in fact all that long ago, but hey, who's counting ?)

Anway, time to calm down now and gloat over our recent victory against the Forces of Oblivion...more in Episode IX...where's that good looking princess gone ?

London Protocol - at last !!!

Just a very quick note to say that I have just been informed by my national representative body of the entry into force of the London Protocol for May 1st, 2008. Three cheers, and drinks all round !!!

On the down side, it is interesting to note that our national body, the CNCPI, were informed of France's deposition of its instruments of ratification by the German Ministry of Justice. One would have thought that the INPI/French government would have been kind enough to inform us before everyone else (some British and German colleagues knew before we did, take a look at, e.g. the IPKat blog). Obviously, we are in the dog's house with the French Ministry of Industry and Commerce now that we are going to defect to the Ministry of Justice, or maybe we are just being snubbed in general by the government. I wouldn't be totally surprised considering how we've behaved over the past year or so, humming and hahing, blowing hot and cold, and generally kicking up a stink when it came to the question of translations (among other things).

Well, at last, the wood is starting to be seen through the trees. I can see much belt tightening and gnashing of teeth in store for those French firms who haven't planned financially for the drop off in easy money that the coming into force of the protocol will cause. At least I can now tell my clients that they will be able to make some savings when it comes to validating their European patents. Better than a knock in the teeth with a spiked cricket bat (not that I've ever seen one, mind you, or isn't that what they used to call a cudgel ? - we English are so civilized)

Come on, all we need now is the EPLA and we'll have some semblance of a unitary system of law throughout the EU. Astute readers will note that in my Euroland gung-ho approach I haven't said anything about the Community patent. IMHO, this will remain an economically unviable pipe dream until the various nations can pull their fingers out and do away with the requirement of having everything translated into whatever minority language we can think of adding at ever decreasing intervals as the Union expands. But I shall leave my criticism of that for another day, time to crack open that bottle of champagne that I paid with all those fees gained from translation last year :-)) after all, next year I might be sipping water and riding a bicycle !!!

Toodlepip !!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Name Game

A rather obscure title for a rather obscure blog entry on something that is going to have a huge impact on our daily working lives as IP professionals in France. Today, is the day, when the members of the CNCPI, or National Guild of Industrial Property Counsel, meet at their AGM and decide on whether we should all just stay as we are, i.e. insignificant, unheard of and drowning in our own narcism, or instead throw ourselves into the gaping mouth (Ed : shouldn't that be "welcoming arms" ?) of the tentacular bar association mothersquid (Ed : all similarities to any existing ET films starring Sigourney Weaver are purely coincidental).

Yes, if the vote goes in favour of the resolution, we shall all become "Avocats - Conseils en Propriété Intellectuelle" - oooooh, I hear the crowd cry in wonderment. "Errrr, I'm sorry, what' s one of them ?", says someone at the back, like a comment out of another animated movie starring a plasticine dog and his dolt master. So, come on smartass, what is it ?

"Well", I say, my pointy fangs glinting in the dark (Ed - you're frightening the kids, you know that?), "its a lawyer, specialising in intellectual property". Shock horror, faints, swoons, cries from the children, and consternation. But don't worry, we're still going to carry on what we were doing before, we're just getting a new name because we think that it'll make us more familiar to the public (a child gawps at me in fear), (Ed - no, its coz you're 6'4" and you look mean and ugly). No seriously, we are going to be harmoniously integrated into the great bosom of the French legal system, and all will be well (Ed - you're fired, too sarcastic by half).

"I'll be back, vengeance will be mine, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah", I say, grinning menacingly and cackling like all madmen in B-rate movies tend to do.

So there it is. Will I become a Avocat or not ? Whilst those of you with limited knowledge of French might be inclined to chide "he's obviously nuts if he thinks he's going to become a green fleshy fruit that you turn in guacamole", then let me put you straight about what this means for us as a profession :

- we cease to exist in an independent form (much like green fleshy fruit turned into guacomole); no great loss as far as I'm concerned, nobody in the general public knew what we did anyway, other than having a ludicrously pompous title. My son's school administration changed my professional title to "Estate Agent" in their database, which just goes to show how insignificant we are (sob, sob, nobody loves me);

- we get to be called Avocat - isn't that great, sounds so cool, yeah, "Avocat, Avocat, Avocat" (perhaps I really do need a holiday);

- we get to plead in French and European courts (if we ever get a European IP tribunal that is, rage, rage), instead of being relegated to haggling like fishmongers with the INPI, EPO or the OHMI - yay, go Avocat, go !!

- we get to snub our noses back at our European and US counterparts in true French arrogant fashion (Ed - oooh, that was low);

- errrm, did I mention that we get to be called Avocat (Ed - that'll do, lad) ?

Believe it or not, I'm actually in favour of the change. It won't stop me from doing what I do at the moment. It might even open up opportunities elsewhere. For once, our profession is actually doing something about its future, instead of looking over its shoulder to its past. Good luck to the committee, I've already given it a big thumbs up !!

However, all is not rosy and plain sailing in the Guild. There are opponents, who have themselves sharpened their knives and ground their axes. The Dark Side is moving to counter the Light, and the light sabres are drawn. If the resolution fails to get the majority vote, then the central committee will undoubtedly be thrown into disarray, and their may be calls for the current president to resign. It might end in an almost civil war-like stance within the profession, and perhaps we'll get a Chancellor Palpatine instead. Oh, the grippiness of it all, I'm on the edge of my seat in anticipation (Ed - no you're not, you're eating your lunch).

Stay tuned for another thrilling episode in "IP - what's the game ?", coming to your screens soon (Ed - you're still fired, and don't come back).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Give me an E, a P, a L and an A, and I'll give you the London Protocol

Such might be the title of the current ongoing political debate between France, and Germany, at least if the rumours in the European IP grapevine are true.

Indeed, in the very true spirit of intergovernmental political negotiation, it appears that the French government is holding back on filing its instrument of ratification with the European Patent Office (EPO) on the London Protocol, at least until the German government agrees to abandon the dual court system for trying invalidity and infringement and wholeheartedly and unreservedly adopts the EPLA.

As one might guess, the German government doesn't appear to be particularly keen on being held hostage in this way.

When I submitted the question of this rumour to our representative professional body, all I got in return was a rather laconic, "the French government will soon be filing its instrument of ratification with the EPO". Well, that was in early December 2007, and still nothing appears to have happened, so maybe there is some truth to the rumour after all. Sigh.

Of course, political bickering and blackmail between states is nothing new, often it is simply called "diplomacy" failing a more honest appraisal of the situation. Like most things here in Euroland, however, this form of diplomacy wreaks havoc with legal certainty, and evidently stands in the way of getting anything done, not to mention the strategy that we, as counsel, might have with regard to our clients in attempting to offer them the best protection for the least amount of financial outlay. Of course, the French government believes it has the upper hand, but in the end, I personally feel they've chosen the wrong hostage to hang up and threaten with a knife to the jugular. If I were paranoid, I'd probably say that it was thanks to the own workings of our internal representative body which was strongly against ratification of the London Protocol, and that they have now found a way of leveraging pressure just to put the axe in one more time. Of course, I have absolutely no proof of my paranoid theories, and maybe I should just sit down with a cup of tea and take my tablets like a nice boy ;-) - there, there, that's better, now, where was I ?

Back some time soon no doubt for further mind numbing, I mean, thought provoking :-) adventures.