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 (http://www.breese.blogs.com/), 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 (http://www.cncpi.fr/blog). 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 ?