Chief Executive’s


Welcome to the Annual Report covering the 2023 membership year.

My job is to offer an insight into that year, in far too few words for the amazing things CIPA does. Professional bodies are complex organisations, a rich mix of expert volunteers and talented staff, working in challenging and changing environments. CIPA is no exception. So come with me now as I take you on a journey through the twelve months that were 2023.

2023 was, of course, our first full year of business as usual, following the pandemic. I say business as usual but there is no question that the pandemic has changed the world of work. We had to invest in technology, videoconferencing and related digital architecture, to thrive in the lockdown years and that investment serves us well in the hybrid world.

We have come to use ‘hybrid’ as a term to cover meetings – Council, committees, external stakeholder, staff – where there is a mix of in-person and online attendance. I remember well the appetite to get back to in-person meetings just as soon as the pandemic was behind us. The reality, however, is that hybrid working is here to say and CIPA has embraced this in Council meetings, committee meetings – in fact all that we do.

In chewing over the story of 2023, it took me no more than a few seconds to alight on the CPTPP campaign as the obvious starting point. The CPTPP, or the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade partnership comprising Australia, Brunei, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and Chile, lit up large on CIPA’s risk radar when the government announced its intention to apply to accede to the partnership in February 2021.

CIPA Council recognised that elements of the IP chapter of the CPTPP were potentially inconsistent with the European Patent Convention (EPC), most notably the requirement to introduce a grace period. There were, of course, many different opinions on the degree of risk and varying legal consequences. CIPA Council took the view that it was the uncertainty which was most unsettling and set out on a campaign to make sure that the government understood the risk and that the negotiations would respect the UK’s existing international obligations. We sought a way for the UK to join the CPTPP which would mitigate the risks of any potential inconsistencies with the EPC.

Council asked a small team to lead the campaign, recognising that our dealings with government could not be open to public disclosure given the sensitive nature of trade negotiations. That small team was Alicia Instone, President at the start of the campaign; Catriona Hammer, then chair of the IP Commercialisation Committee and CIPA’s international trade guru; Neil Lampert, CIPA’s Deputy Chief Executive and public affairs supremo; and me. Our main goal, at a time of great political upheaval and changing ministers, was to press the point that this was not a political issue. CIPA was in support of the government’s ambitions for international trade but we want to see these achieved in a way which did not place at risk or give rise to uncertainty about the UK’s membership of the EPC.

The campaign team, ably assisted by expert public affairs specialists at the communications firm CICERO, 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. We also met with our partner representative institutes in CPTPP member countries and many other stakeholders. Our greatest frustration was not being able to continually update members across the two-year campaign. The strength of the campaign was the trust we had established with the UK’s negotiating team and we could not afford to place this in jeopardy, meaning even Council was not always aware of the status of the negotiations.

That frustration was at its greatest in late 2022 and early 2023, when the campaign team knew that we had achieved what had seemed impossible at the start. Working with the UK’s negotiating team and alongside the IP Federation, we had secured a means of acceding to the CPTPP which would set aside the grace period provisions until such time as there was wider international harmonisation. I do not think it is possible to overstate the importance of this achievement and the role CIPA played in securing it. For me personally, I felt a mixed state of euphoria and exhaustion and it has been a great pleasure retelling this story at our regional events and sharing CIPA’s success with members.

Of course, the year wasn’t entirely consumed by the CPTPP campaign. CIPA Council led a number of important policy initiatives, including:

• Crafting a new set of strategic priorities for CIPA
• Responding to bilateral trade negotiation consultations
• Contributing to the government’s thinking on the Retained EU Law (REUL) Bill
• Feeding into the UKIPO’s work on its digital transformation programme
• Introducing a membership code of behaviour and conduct
• Responding to IPReg’s consultations on the new regulatory arrangements, its budget and business plan
• Contributing to the consultation on changes to the EPO’s Rules to facilitate its digital transformation project
• Feeding into the EPO’s discussions on substantive patent law harmonisation
• Responding to the EPO’s proposed reforms to the European Qualifying Examinations
• Leading the UK profession’s response to the launch of the Unified Patent Court (UPC).

This is only a taste of the areas in which CIPA Council has been providing leadership and I have finished with the UPC purposefully. CIPA’s work on the UPC will be reported more fully elsewhere in this Annual Report but I wanted to use it as an excellent example of something I talk about often. CIPA enjoys the success that it does because its members have an extraordinary capacity to give back to the profession through volunteering. Nowhere is that more evident than in the leadership shown on the UPC, where the UPC Task Force has risen magnificently to a series of challenges to demonstrate that the UK profession can occupy a position of great strength in the new court.

This ethos of volunteering is evident most in the work of CIPA’s committees. I will not reflect on the details of that work here, again you will see this reported throughout the Annual Report. I want to record my thanks to the hundreds of members who give so freely of their time through CIPA’s committees, through webinars, through seminars, through speaking at conferences and events and through contributing to text books, publications and the Journal. You are CIPA’s lifeblood. Your voluntary commitment to your professional body makes CIPA the influential organisation that it is. Thank you.

Finally, a big thank you to my staff team. I always say that, beyond the numbers, a set of accounts tell the real story of an organisation, if you look at the narrative. In the last year, we have spent more on staff recruitment than ever before. Coming out of the pandemic, we lost a number of staff to IP firms, developing their careers in event management. We saw other colleagues leave us for promotions elsewhere or to pursue significant career changes. The CIPA staff team looked very, very different at the end of 2023. We have, however, been fortunate to bring in some exceptionally talented people (you know who you are) and my team now, those of us who have been around for some time and those who are new, means we are in great shape to continue to serve our members well.

And that is the secret to CIPA’s success; expert volunteers and talented staff. Thank you all. Congratulations on all you have achieved together. Long may it continue.

Lee Davies



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