Wednesday, 9 June 2010

British Standard on IP advice

The IPKat reports here that the British Standards Institution is consulting on consulting on a new standard (BS8538) on the provision of services relating to intellectual property rights. I am speechless. Already the professions that work in this area are ridicuously over-regulated. I have been very unimpressed in my dealings with trade mark agents, it's true, some of whom don't even acknowledge correspondence (which I think would be regarded as unprofessional in a solicitor - though I have probably done it myself in the past), and being obliged to conduct themselves according to a set of rules, as solicitors have done for decades, is a Good Thing.

So at whom is the proposed BS aimed? Presumably fringe IP advisers, because there's nothing in that solicitors, patent attorneys and trade mark agents aren't already obliged to do. Far better, in my view, to restrict the work to people who have a professional qualification and a code of ethics: the presumption so often seems to be that consumers of these services (who will often be businesses, of course) need the protection afforded by competition against high prices. But when competition comes from unqualified, perhaps uninsured, people, the interests of consumers have been sacrificed on the alter of price competition. Unfortunately, the imperative seems to be to ensure legal services are available as cheaply as possible, in the IP field as well as on the High Street.

Apart from these objections in principle, I am not impressed by the intellectual rigour of the document. It makes sweeping statements about IP without distinguishing the beneficial effects that patent protection provides [in theory] for technology and the very different benefits of trade mark protection. And, come to think of it, what about those professional advisers who help their clients obtain extensive, deep and anti-competitive intellectual property protection, so they can go about bullying smaller businesses? I reckon that some things these absolutists do are not compatible with a solicitor's duty to the court - a constraint that does not apply to patent attorneys and trade mark agents, and (a fortiori) to the targets of BS8538. Now manybe that's an aspect that the BSI could usefully look at.

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