IPReg and CIPA Guidance Note on the European Patent Litigation Certificate

We reported in the October 2015 Yellow Sheet about the introduction of the European Patent Litigation Certificate, a qualification which will allow European patent attorneys (EPAs) to be entered on the list of entitled representatives authorised to represent before the UPC.  As we reported then, the draft rules on the EPLC include some transitional provisions which will allow certain people to “grandfather” onto the list.

IPReg and CIPA have recently published a guidance note, to help UK attorneys work out whether their existing qualifications will allow them to grandfather onto the list.  The full guidance note can be found here.

Trainees might be particularly interested in the final paragraphs of the guidance note, which read as follows:

“If you are not yet an EPA, you should aim to become one before the end of the transitional period if possible.

If you are a trainee who is likely to become an EPA before the end of the transitional period, you can qualify to go on the list within the transitional period if, within that period, you either

  • take the Queen Mary Certificate Course, or
  • take the one year Nottingham Law School course “Intellectual Property Litigation and Advocacy” (or any of other specified courses[19]), or
  • qualify as a UK patent attorney and complete a Basic Skills Course, or as a UK trade mark attorney.

If you wish to go on to the list and these transitional arrangements do not apply to you, then you may qualify at any time by becoming an EPA, and either

  • obtaining a law degree or equivalent; or
  • (in future) passing an EPLC Course and obtaining a Certificate.”

The guidance note points out that the transitional period has not yet started to run.  However, it is only a one-year transitional period, so the window for completing the actions mentioned above could be short if the transitional period begins soon.  There may also be a shortage of spaces on basic litigation skills courses, so you might want to consider booking your course early if you would like to benefit from the EPLC transitional provisions (or indeed if it has been nearly 3 years since you were added to the UK register of patent attorneys!).

As yet, there is no “EPLC course”, so it remains to be seen how onerous it will be for EPAs to join the list of UPC representatives in the future.  However, as pointed out in the guidance note, the EPLC course “will involve students in a minimum of 120 study hours, and written and oral examinations” – on the face of it, a considerable extra burden.

Survey on possible changes to qualification system for patent attorneys – your views needed!

The Informals Committee would like to know your views on the idea of introducing “formative” or “continuous” assessment into the existing Foundation exams for patent attorneys.  To tell us what you think of this idea, please complete the following survey by 16:00 on Monday 18 January 2016:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/InformalsEducationSurveyJan2016

To find out why we’d like your views on this particular topic, please read the “backstory” below.  If you have questions about the survey or the backstory, please contact Informals Honorary Secretary Ben Charig (cipainformalshonsec@gmail.com) or Informals Education Coordinator Miranda Kent (miranda.kent@hotmail.co.uk).

We look forward to receiving your responses!

Backstory

In 2013, IPReg launched its “Consultation on simplifying and modernising the examination system for qualifying as a patent attorney”.  Part of that consultation was a proposal to “[r]equire all trainee patent attorneys to pass an accredited examined Foundation level course and no longer accredit Foundation level examinations which are provided independently of corresponding accredited courses” (emphasis added).

IPReg received lots of responses to its consultation, including a detailed response from the Informals.  The IPReg Board then commissioned a report to inform IPReg’s thinking about next steps.  IPReg received the report in summer 2015, as noted in one of our previous blog posts.

IPReg has kindly shared the report and an accompanying briefing note with the Informals Committee.  The briefing note provides profession-focused context for the report.

From the briefing note and the report, we understand IPReg’s principal concerns about the current Foundation exams to be that:

  1. the Foundation exams are an examination-only route to part qualification, i.e. there is no teaching and no “formative” or “continuous” assessment as part of the Foundation exams;
  2. such an examination-only route may be sub-optimal from an educational point of view; and
  3. the examination-only Foundation exams route is an outlier compared to other legal professions.

(“Formative” or “continuous” assessment is assessment which gives the learner feedback during the learning process.  Essays, presentations, group discussions and modular written or oral tests can be used for formative assessment.)

IPReg has asked the Informals Committee to comment on the report.  To help us do that in a way which reflects your views, please take a few minutes to fill in the survey at the link above.  The survey asks questions about how the existing Foundation exams could be modified to include formative/continuous assessment.  Please submit your responses by 16:00 on Monday 18 January 2016.

IPReg Consultation on the Patent Examinations

As many of you know, in early 2014, IPReg asked the patent profession for comments on its proposals to ‘simplify and modernise the Patent Attorney examination system’.  (See our summary blog post on this matter).  IPReg has now provided an update on the matter.

IPReg states in their update:
We received a large number of responses, some of which were very detailed, and I should like to thank you for taking the time to participate in the consultation.

 Following our own internal review of the responses, IPReg decided to commission external research about teaching, learning and assessment in the context of professions, in order to inform our discussions about ‘next steps’. That research was undertaken by staff at the Institute of Education/UCL. Their report has set out for us some of the key issues based on published and accepted practice in teaching, learning and assessment.

 As well as this report, the consultation responses provided us with a range of views as well as a significant number of responses expressing reservations about the proposed changes. IPReg’s Education, Qualifications, Conduct and Disciplinary Committee (EQCD) has agreed that it is now prudent for us to take a period of time to carefully consider the report and the feedback before reaching a conclusion about whether or not to make any changes.

 Therefore, I should like to confirm that there will be no change to the current arrangements for patent examinations for the next two examination cycles and, as we have said before, any future changes would always be subject to appropriate transition arrangements to ensure that trainees are not prejudiced” (emphasis added).

Thus, it appears that for the time being, no changes are being made to the patent attorney qualification process.

It also appears that changes to the qualification process may still be on the cards.  The IPReg Board’s meeting minutes of March 2015 (see here) state that the Board is considering whether and how certain university courses should be accredited (i.e. the courses which exempt trainees from the PEB Foundation exams).  In particular, the Board states that “there was a need to have a health warning/disclaimer on the [accreditation] report as students were paying for expensive courses that might not necessarily lead to a job” (emphasis added).

We look forward to hearing what IPReg decides on this matter soon.

Parminder
Informals’ Honorary Secretary

IPReg Consultation: one year on

Those of you who have been trainees for a year or more will recall that this time last year, IPReg asked the patent profession for comments on its proposals to ‘simplify and modernise the Patent Attorney examination system’. Briefly, IPReg proposed two things:

1) to remove the Foundation level examinations and require all trainees to attend an equivalent course run by a University, and

2) to withdraw the UK drafting (P3, now known as FD2) and amendment (P4, now known as FD3) papers, and instead require trainees to rely on the exemptions obtainable by passing the EQEs.

Over 200 trainees responded to the Informals’ survey on IPReg’s proposed changes, and we submitted a response to the consultation on behalf of the student body of CIPA. You can see our response here.

Since the consultation period ended, IPReg has been remarkably silent, perhaps because, as IPReg acknowledged (see here), the majority of the responses IPReg received were not in support of their proposals. IPReg has neither published the responses (or a selection thereof) on its website, nor provided any satisfactory indication of whether it intends to go ahead with the proposed changes or not. However, there have been other developments in education since the consultation ended, which may impact IPReg’s proposals.

Firstly, the Patent Examination Board (PEB) is now up and running, and has been busy professionalising the UK patent examinations. For example, the PEB has recently updated the syllabi for the UK examinations to make it clearer what skills and knowledge are required to be able to pass each examination. Patent firms have developed their own training programs to prepare their trainees for the PEB Foundation level exams, in view of the fact that University courses either do not exist in their area or are too expensive. If IPReg decides to go ahead with its first proposal, then the hard work and time that PEB has put into improving the UK examinations, and those developing in-house training programs, has unfortunately been wasted.

Secondly, the EQEs are changing from 2017 to provide only a single Paper A (drafting) and a single Paper B (amendment), in a technical field that is accessible to all (see our post about this here). IPReg alleged that since more UK trainees sit EQE Papers A and B and then claim exemptions from the UK drafting and amendment papers, the UK papers were redundant. The reason more UK trainees sit the EQE Papers A and B is because they are provided in two different technical fields – “Electricity/Mechanics” and “Chemistry”.

How does this change affect IPReg’s second proposal? Well, now it seems trainees will have to learn how to draft claims for inventions in “technical fields that are accessible to everyone” (whatever that means), regardless of their technical background, whether or not they take the UK drafting exam. Perhaps the inventions will be similar to those presented in EQE Paper C and in the claims part of the EQE pre-examination, i.e. a combination of mechanical devices and chemistry.

This has an important knock-on effect on trainers, who will have to teach their trainees how to draft claims for an invention in such a technical field, regardless of their own background and skills. Can trainers with a background in Physics comfortably teach their trainees how to draft chemical claims and disclaimers? Can patent attorneys with backgrounds in Biology teach their trainees how to draft mechanical device claims? If not, what will happen to the current generation of trainee patent attorneys?

There is a great deal of uncertainty in the patent profession regarding education and training. Both trainees and trainers alike do not know which exams will exist in the coming years, and as a consequence, trainers do not know how best to train their trainees. We hope that IPReg will provide the patent profession with an update soon.

Parminder

Informals’ Honorary Secretary

IPReg Consulation: an update

Today, IPReg have sent an email update regarding their consultation on the patent examination system (see our earlier post about this here). For the benefit of all trainees, we provide the full text of the email below:

Dear Colleague

Earlier this year you wrote to us in response to the consultation we carried out on IPReg’s proposals to simplify and modernise the Patent Attorney examination system. We received 235 responses and appreciated the energy and scope of the views expressed.

We wrote to you on 24 March to explain the likely timetable for publication of our response.

However, it is clear that the way forward is now for us to obtain specialist input on particular points which have emerged during the consultation. This is underway. We also need to consider the (currently delayed) proposal for the European Litigation Qualification in case it has a bearing on the IPReg proposals.

Continue reading

Changes to the EQEs in 2017

Eagle-eyed trainees and trainers may have spotted the following announcement on the EPO website regarding changes to EQE Papers A and B: “With effect from 2017, a single Paper A and a single Paper B will be set each year. As for current Paper C and the Pre-Examination, Papers A and B will be set in technical fields that are accessible to everyone.” It appears that trainees who started in the profession in Autumn 2013 and thereafter may have to sit the EQE drafting and amendment papers on a simple, mechanical invention. Currently, Papers A and B are split by technical specialism – there are separate papers for Electronics/Mechanics and Chemistry.

Continue reading

IPReg’s Education Reforms – an update

As you may recall, the period to respond to IPReg’s consultation on their proposed reforms to the examination system closed in March.  (A copy of our response can be found here.)  IPReg received a total of 243 responses from “a wide range of organisations” and it is pleasing to note that “the majority of these were not in support of the proposals“.  IPReg intended to publish all the responses to the consultation on their website, but they haven’t done so yet because of the sheer number of replies.

IPReg has also commented that “determining the way forward was clearly a big piece of work and the regulated community and other responders to the consultation should not expect an answer for three to six months” (see page 6 of IPReg’s Board Minutes here).

We look forward to hearing what IPReg’s proposed way forward is soon, and we will keep you all posted.

Parminder Lally
(Yellow Sheet Editor)

Please support our response!

Just a quick reminder that if you disagree with one or both of IPReg’s proposed reforms to the examination system, please drop IPReg an email (ipreg[at]ipreg.org.uk) supporting the Informals’ response before 5pm this Monday (17 March 2014). Please clearly mark your response with the words “Response to Consultation”.

Our summary of the survey results that we used to draft our response can be found on pages 69-73 of the February issue of the CIPA Journal (accessible here for CIPA members). For more details on our response and to access a copy of our letter see our earlier post.  

Thanks

Andrew White & Parminder Lally 

Response to Consultation

The Informals’ Committee have now submitted a response to IPReg’s proposed reforms to the examination system.  The Informals’ Committee based the response on the results of the survey run during January, which a staggering 209 of you responded to!  We’re very grateful to all who responded.  Overall, the results indicated that 83.5% of respondents want to retain the Foundation exams, and 74% want to retain the Advanced P3 and P4 papers.  A summary of the results has been published in the February CIPA Journal (pages 69-73).

A copy of our response can be found here.  If you agree with the Informals’ response, please support the response by emailing IPReg. The more emails they receive supporting our response, the more likely it will be that IPReg will take our response on board.  It’ll only take you a minute to drop them an email along the lines of: “I have read the Informals’ response to IPReg’s consultation and I agree with what was written”.

So, if you disagree with one or both of the proposed reforms, please drop IPReg an email (ipreg[at]ipreg.org.uk) supporting the Informals’ response before 5pm on 17 March 2014. Please clearly mark your response with the words “Response to Consultation” (e.g. in the subject line).

Thanks

Andrew White (Honorary Secretary) & Parminder Lally (Regional Secretary)

Live debate on exam reform

Thank you to those of you who completed the Informals’ survey on IPReg’s proposed changes to the examination system (see our earlier post here).

You may be interested to know that a live debate on the future of the examination system is taking place at CIPA on Wednesday 12 February, from 14:30.  A member of the Informals’ Committee has been invited to attend in person to represent the student body.

You too can join the debate via a live web broadcast, during which you also have the opportunity to submit questions to the panel during the debate.  If you just want to listen or if you want to voice your opinions, you can find details on how to join the debate here.

Parminder
Yellow Sheet Editor