I am intrigued by an email from The Lawyer that has just appeared in my spam folder:
“Intellectual Property Barrister required by high profile Manchester law firm. Like to know more? Please forward your CV in complete confidence to recruitment@……. or contact ……. on ……. or ……”
It’s an offer to forward my CV to whoever placed the ad. I am not applying though. If it really is a law firm that placed the ad and not a barristers’ chambers trying to find a new market for its increasingly leisured middle ranking chancery/commercial tenants, I have seen too many of my friends in “major regional law firms” (if that is not an oxymoron*) who “have had their equity returned” on turning 40 to be tempted. Whoever paid for that ad, it shows remarkable optimism and some might say naivety.
Let’s look at some statistics. According to the Patent Office (page 13 Patent Office Facts and Figures 2004/2005) some 1,583 patent applications were filed in NW England (Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumbria) compared to 3,657 from London alone and another 3,547 from the Southern Home Counties. Trade marks? 2,372 applications (two of which were mine) from the NW compared to 6,402 from London and 3,518 from the Southern Home Counties. Registered designs then? 313 from the NW, 764 from London and 559 from the Southern Home Counties.
Bearing in mind that patent, registered design and semiconductor topography claims have to be brought in London how much copyright, trade mark and unregistered design right work can there be for this new recruit? In 2004 only 1,977 claim forms were issued for the whole of the Chancery Division outside London compared to 4,533 for the Royal Courts of Justice (page 29 Judicial Statistics 2004). Patent Office hearing officers can, of course, sit anywhere but in practice most of the hearings take place in Harmsworth House.
However, the UK as a whole is losing work to the continent. IPAC reported in Appendix 2 to its November 2003 report “The Enforcement of Patent Rights” that an average of 25 patent actions go to trial in the UK each year compared to 200 to 300 in France, 500 to 600 in Germany and even 50 to 100 in the Netherlands. Bearing in mind that it can cost each side up to £1 million to fight in London compared to less than €50,000 in France, Germany and the Netherlands who can wonder. In the course of last year I had 4 clients with European patents that had been infringed here and elsewhere in Europe and one with patents infringed here and in the USA. I had to advise them all to litigate abroad even though I would have been delighted to have represented them here.
Having said all this, I do believe that there is a crying need for specialist intellectual property advice in Manchester. Birmingham has Wragge & Co, Leeds has Richard Kempner but Manchester has …………….. well, a number of reasonably informed and competent litigation lawyers. I also believe that there is a future for specialist, self-employed advisors operating with low overheads and providing cost effective advice and representation for SME. That’s why I set up NIPC in the first place and why I moved it closer to its market. What those SME need is a fence round the cliff. Not a private ambulance at the bottom.
* My wife has advised me not to use words like “oxymoron” in this post. My sentiment is that anyone in the market for this job will have to be familiar with far more obscure words than that – “synecdoche” and “metonymy” for instance.