Chief Executive's


The art of the Chief Executive’s summary in the Annual Report is to capture the highlights and, where appropriate, the lowlights of the membership year in an engaging and informative way. In many ways, it is the art of the storyteller, making the complexities and challenges we face as a professional membership association come alive. And what a story CIPA has to tell.

On a personal level, it was fantastic to be back on the road (or rail track), meeting members and telling that story at regional events and conferences. The experience seemed somewhat heightened as a result of the pandemic, with a buzzing atmosphere as we returned to meetings and events in person. At times, it is a politically sensitive story to tell, somewhat easier to tell in person than to put in writing. I will try to reflect on the CIPA year here but, for reasons of confidentiality and sensitivity, my reflections will be somewhat abridged. Still, I hope you get a flavour of what we have been up to.

The year was very much framed by the emergence from the pandemic and a return to meeting people face-to-face. We learned a lot about working remotely during that long period of enforced separation and I hope we have been able to retain the best elements of the new whilst accommodating working in the office and meeting in person. We have become more flexible and adaptable, and I sense a collective will to make improvements in the ways we work together. This is particularly important from a sustainability perspective, and I hope CIPA’s new Sustainability Committee will lead on this.

It was a year for new committees, with the formation of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the European Liaison Committee. The D&I Committee will help CIPA build on the successes we have had in partnership with IP Inclusive and to focus on how we ensure the patent attorney profession attracts the very best people, regardless of difference. The European Liaison Committee fills an important gap in CIPA’s policy and public affairs work, created when the UK left the European Union.

Sticking with things European, much of CIPA’s work in 2022 was focussed on the imminent launch of the Unified Patent Court (UPC). I say imminent, there were a number of false starts. At the time of writing the launch remains imminent, in June 2023. To help members prepare, CIPA put on a series of webinars with high-profile speakers sharing their knowledge and expertise. Much like the work we did on visa-free access to the seats of the EPO in 2020, in relation to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the EU and the UK, we have been working with colleagues in the UKIPO, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to ensure UK patent attorneys can exercise their right to access the UPC.

Having left the EU, the UK was free to seek bilateral trade agreements, and CIPA positioned itself to be a trusted friend of government on the IP chapters of those agreements. The IP Commercialisation Committee took the lead in responding to government consultations on the concluded trade agreements with Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, and the ongoing trade negotiations covering Israel, India, Mexico, Canada and the Gulf Cooperation Council. A trade agreement with the US remains somewhat over the horizon. CIPA’s participation in these discussions is covered by a non-disclosure agreement, meaning we cannot be as open with our members about this important work.

Bilateral agreements are relatively straightforward, with two countries giving and taking concessions built around a largely blank framework. Joining an existing trade bloc is more difficult, as the rules of trade are established and the joining country has less room to manoeuvre. This meant that CIPA’s risk radar was buzzing when, in February 2021, the government announced its intention to apply to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a trade partnership comprising Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, with Chile soon to ratify its membership.

We quickly identified that the IP chapter of the CPTPP included elements that were potentially inconsistent with the European Patent Convention (EPC), most notably the requirement to introduce a grace period. We wanted to make sure that the government was aware of the issue and that the negotiations would respect the UK’s existing international obligations and find a way to join the CPTPP which would mitigate the risks of any potential inconsistencies.

The CPTPP negotiations began in September 2021 and are expected to conclude by the summer of 2023. We have met with government ministers, lead civil servants, MPs and peers from all parties to raise awareness of the importance of the EPC to the UK’s global trade agenda and, of course, for UK businesses. This is not a political issue. CIPA supports the government’s ambitions for international trade but we want to see these achieved in a way which complements our membership of the EPC. We have also met with our partner representative institutes in CPTPP member countries.

As I referenced earlier, 2022 saw the return of in-person regional meetings and conferences. Sadly, CIPA Congress had cancelled due to the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. We offered our deepest condolences to His Majesty King Charles III and the Royal Family. We were able to host our annual IP Paralegal Conference and Life Sciences Conference as planned, and it was brilliant to see so many members able to network once more after the pandemic. We also celebrated our 500th IP Paralegal member joining towards the end of 2022, as this vibrant community continues to go from strength to strength.

All this would not be possible were it not for the tremendous amount of time our members give voluntarily to CIPA, from writing articles for the Journal, through speaking at webinars and events, to representing members on committees and in Council. We also have gifted and talented people working at CIPA, who support and complement the work of our members. CIPA’s achievements are your achievements.

Lee Davies

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