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 http://www.cncpi.fr/blog, and of course to Mr. Breesé's own appraisal of the situation (http://www.breese.blogs.com)
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.