2011 marked our second year as regulator to the professions of Trade Mark Attorneys and Patent Attorneys and it is fair to say that we are now an established part of the professional life of both individual registrants and entities. We continue on our path of principle-based regulation and strive to be free of complication and detailed rules.
I am the first to accept that for intellectual property lawyers (whose raison d’être might be thought of as detail and distinction) the idea of looking at principle and not detail might be regarded as anathema. That said, the Board desires to continue along these lines in order to make regulation consumer focused.
Much of the year has been taken up with the debate on the issue of Alternative Business Structures (ABS) and whether IPReg will pursue an application to become a licensing authority. The issues were set out in a letter which I sent to all registrants in the summer and the Board spent a great deal of time weighing up the benefits, costs and risks of a decision. What was not in doubt was the fact that a ‘draw bridge’ would be lifted when the transitional arrangements come to an end, with the certainty that no IP firm could take advantage of the new structure and be registered within the ‘IP community’ – unless IPReg did something. That something was to apply to become a licensing authority.
I am pleased to report that the Board has decided to pursue an application and work has commenced. The process will be long and involve consultation and resource. No one can say with precision what the benefits will be. All that can be said is that there would be a disadvantage for all time if no action had been taken.
Communication is a vital part of regulatory life and members continue to visit firms both individually and in groups of firms. These visits have been appreciated and do indeed form a very helpful extension to our knowledge of the professions as well as being an opportunity for the professions to hear about the work of the Board.
Continuing with the theme of communication: our IT project, whereby we can improve service to the professions and the public, is in the process of development. Many readers of this report will be aware of the risks and problems attaching to IT changes – so our progress will be cautious. I hope this caution is understood.
In closing, may I thank both Institutes for their help and support during a busy year. The members of the IPReg Board have continued to provide regulatory and professional expertise far beyond what was originally asked of them and for this they have my unqualified thanks.
My final comment: a small and dedicated team (unchanged from last year) in the IPReg offices meets the challenges of an expanding remit with professionalism and goodwill, both in equal abundance – my thanks to them all.
2011 Annual Report