Do you want to listen to pitches from Europe's young hopeful media businesses along with the rest of the parasitic investment, bogging and legal worlds that surround them? The invitation made it straight to the junk email folder. Ironically it tempted me to meet my former law firm partners. I had approached Library House before but since it sells its information, it wasn't interested in me until today when I might pay a reasonable fee to join this live event.
Live is clearly what we still need if we want to get a hold on the reality of where the innovation and the smart cash is going in the media sector. . The motivation for gathering us together came from the corporate investment funds of Microsoft and IntelCapital but there was interest in other exit opportunity providers, Ebay Yahoo and Google. The question though is what will the consumer consume - will they carry on downloading music and sending text messages for ever. Will social networking survive when a generation of young rich Americans realises it can no longer spend 145 minutes a day on Bebo. Apparently BT wont let you use the term "exploit" in a business proposition. It loves its customers but even so there was little in any of these media business models that gave back. Whether it was the 1ft experience of the mobile phone, 3ft on the PC or the 10ft shared TV experience with remote control, every business model was bleeding its public and offering little more than billshock - a neat term I learned from the man from Admob one of the few businesses focusing on business on display.
But what about the attitude to the legal issues - is there demand for more user rights, better enforcement - all that stuff the previous evening's event had focused on. No. There was scant appreciation of copyright and less of patents and most did not care whether a business model was legal or not. I confess to a little shock - I had thought that seeing gambling site executives marched off to jail might make investors more cautious of unlawful business models. In the generous networking breaks I found one man prepared to boast of £160 thousand wasted investment in worthless patents and quite a few interested in current copyright issues but the fuzzy misinformation that emanated from the platform was popular too. Most entrepreneurs had the IP advisers they needed already on board, but it didn't sound as if they were getting much value from them and many (outside the mobile telephony experts) were unaware of the patent issues they could face in the US market or the possibility that patent publications might provide insights into where the sector was going. nevertheless I was quite pleased that there seemed a good deal of enthusiasm for interactive TV. I have seen plenty of patent applications on that so we should have fun.
Incidentally bloggers are people of colour - coloured shirts and jackets that is. More stuff at Edublogger who also provided the pictrure at the top of this column. The picture by alarmclock:euro is particularly fine too;-)
Now Andrew Gower's review had not reported when he gave this presentation, which meant that he repeated the presentation that he had given earlier in the month at the CIPA congress. Obviously he was not permitted to announce the conclusions of his review. No doubt he had had his knuckles rapped after the leak last weekend to the BBC. So my intuition says that the review will encourage that the UK put intellectual assets at the centre of all government policy and that policy decisions focus on the growth of the UK economy (excluding the legal economy which Andrew thinks is too well off already). He may include:
There are less female inspirational speakers on Entrepreneurship so it was interesting to listen to the philosophy of Julie - First Tuesday founder - when she addressed the Enterprise Tuesday audience. Julie regards herself as a good communicator and she certainly beamed over to us a wealth of her insights into the ecosystems that her investee companies were developing. These ecosystem businesses seem to share the idea of changing the communicating behaviour of the great average consumer. The interest may have begun with something as innocuous as Lastminute.com, but the principle of these lifestyle manipulating businesses is deep at the heart of Ebay, Skype, MySpace and YouTube.
The lecture was full of just loads of valuable lessons - it was almost a religious code to govern your life as an entrepreneur. Was there anything fundamentally female about it? No. She did say she was grateful to her family and particularly her mother for her supportive upbringing and suggested that if you were going to become an entrepreneur it would exclude a personal life. This is not what most of the male speakers say. They recognise the commitment that a young company requires, but often allude to the value of a wife who has acted as an independent sounding board. Doug Richard's story of confessing his mistakes to his wife comes to mind - that was when he took shares instead of cash when he sold a company. While it may not be possible to have it all, its also wrong to believe you have to deny everything that makes you female.
For this audience starting companies for the first time - she drew attention to the need to get deals right at the beginning and alluded to the trouble that her indiscriminate share allocation had caused at First Tuesday.
In a much interrupted presentation, IET Member Dr Antonis Papantiou spoke about his role at the coalface of the European Patent examination process at the EPO in The Hague. His field is telecommunications which encroaches on the excluded field of software. While Dr Papantiou's presentation on the structure and role of the EPO was clear, it was much more difficult for him to explain how he distinguishes between the patentable and unpatentable. Although he stressed that the EPO was not a political organisation and not an EU Institution, it is clear that it is adopting a law making role in respect of patentable subject matter. Why else would files be put to one side.
One of the aspects of his presentation that shocked the audience were the cost figures that he put up - adding up to €31,100 over ten years for eight countries. Even the €4300 figure of the EPO fees seemed rich, though more distress was caused by the translation figures.
In due course, you will find my diary for today in the British Library. You can put yours there too if you can remember enough of your day before 1 November and you are English. Today was no ordinary day, CIPA held a party to launch its publication of Paul Cole's book on the Fundamentals of Patent Drafting. Buy it here. The volume was welcomed by Judge Fysh and Patent Office Chief Executive, Ron Marchant. It seems the Patent Office has plenty to complain or laugh about when examining the claims offered up for examination. The Judge was more discrete and drew attention only to his own typographical errors as editor of the Reports of Patent Cases.
The Statues of AIPPI bias the association towards a blinkered dedication to the protection of intellectual property. The affluence of the delegates makes it difficult for them to recognise the rising tide of opinion that calls for fairness and balance in the legal framework. If the legal framework truly supports innovation and economic growth, then it is effective. A protective environment may not do that.
The European Parliament debated a resolution on the future patent policy in Europe, Mirjam Söderholm (EU, Deputy Head IP Unit, Internal Market DG of the European Commission) gave an anodyne survey of the results of the recent Community Patent consultation much as I cover here. The elements of feedback, debate and provocation that are the purpose of attending a live event were sadly absent. From the silence on the topic we can only conclude that the Commission sees no merit in the London Agreement but I note that this motion for the resolution and this one did include such a suggestion.
AIPPI -an international intellectual property society - promotes as its mission only the "protection" of intellectual property. It is fundamentally biased towards the benefit of the legal profession agents and litigators. It aspires to study harmonisation activities. It is a very serious organisation. In keeping with this image members and their guests from around the world gathered in the Congress Hall in Gothenberg Convention Centre. The speaking line up was illustrious but not English. The language spoken was English. Even Alain Pompidou President of the EPO spoke English as he announced that he might be making progress in persuading the French Government to sign the London Agreement and waive the necessity for every European Patent to be translated into French.
The IT department has been in training for this trip for at least 10 years working with Goodwille so its about time we visited Scandinavia.
The event is designed round debating various questions arising out of IP practice. Each national group produces a report so the result is a comparative survey of practice across all the participating country designations. My group is working in Question 189 which addresses issues of post grant claim amendment. Its a timely question because EPC2000 with its provision for central limitation of European patents post opposition will come into force by 13 December 2007. This is an administrative procedure that simply insists that the claim be restricted in scope and subject matter not be added. There is no discretion or opportunity for third party intervention at this stage by contrast to the position for amendment via the UK Patent Office. There have been two recent cases where amendments have been refused under this discretion. In Coventry University's Application the Patent Office refused an amendment on 27 January 2006. The Hearing Officer concluded that the University drew the patent to the attention of third parties when it should have known that the patent was invalid. "I therefore find that the University sought to gain unfair advantage from the patent when it should have known of the need to amend." The principal ground was that "no explanation is given for a culpable delay of almost three years in making this request." Typically the discretion on granting relief by way of damages after amendment makes the discretion as to whether or not to allow amendment less relevant in court proceedings, but the discretion has been applied to refuse amendments in Secretary of State for Education and Skills v Frontline Technology Ltd (2005) D Young QC refused an amendment in the exercise if the court's discretion and/or because it would be an abuse of process. Apparently case stories don't go into the reports - it would make them too long.
The organisation, after a debate of stultifying boredom, voted for a resolution that favored the right of patent proprietors to make any amendment. While it is gratifying for the EPO to have endorsement of the EPC2000 procedure, it was disappointing that no-one aired the concerns of those who have to evaluate the risk of infringement. Possibly the debate at the private session that prepared the resolution for the public one was more lively - but that is for the inner circle only.
To Savoy Place to listen to Sir Robin Saxby enthuse about the possibility of every consumer product containing an ARM chip. You can download his presentation or watch it here. The fun thing was that we had chips at the dinner afterwards.
A trip to Farnborough to listen to some big male names talking about how organisations create an environment to encourage employees to think innovatively. Last year's event misled many into believing it was for innovative young businesses. This year the program is more focused on the needs of the larger organisation to get the best out of employees.
One of the more interesting presentations was by Peter Middleton of ARM - Filemot's co-sponsor of the CU Entrepreneurs business creation competition. You can watch it here:
The day was completed by a stunning interactive session taught by WhatIf. We left having been truly taught the lessons we needed to take back to our own organisations.
There's an unkind rumour going round the IP profession in the US that the USPTO does not care much about its small inventors because big businesses are its major client. The UK Patent Office according to its UK Corporate Plan 2006, is experiencing a larger proportion of unrepresented applicants and an overall reduction in demand for search and examination. They attribute this (optimistically in my opinion) to businesses applying an even sharper focus to their patenting activities and managing their portfolios even more carefully. I suspect that it is, instead, a reduction in creativity within the UK. The mission of this conference is to correct that.
These are the slides from my presentation. It was an interesting gathering but it highlighted for me that patent agency is not a career for those who want to remain as scientists. It is a career shift. You are leaving science as your primary endeavour and becoming a lawyer. Only a few will find themselves able to limit their practice to the scientific field in which you did your research. A PhD is a definitely not a prerequisite to become a patent attorney.
A word to the less wise. AWISE is the Association of Women in Science and Engineering. It began as just WISE and once upon a time in its early days I gave a similar talk at Slough Technical College. It was memorable because in the room back stage I encountered my first IBM PC.
Collin Allison of the 3Cs community concluded a meeting at which we had heard four detailed business presentations by explaining how they had all asked for too little money. Still he promised to send Solion a cheque for £300 in recognition that this South Bank University nurtured company offered the most investable opportunity. The company aspires to put solar panels onto flat roofs without penetrating them or loading them. Ian Sillett now has the opportunity to buy £300 of advice from 3 separate consultants within the community. If they come back and share their experience they earn another £300 cheque.
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Copyright 11 October 2007