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.