26 August 2005

Thoughts inspired by Mr Nipper's Nipper

I commend a short article by Mr Stephen Nipper of "Rethink (IP)" entitled "Changes are coming ......". Before commenting further on his post, I should explain that in the argot of the part of England where I grew up "nipper" means child.

The article starts with a delightful anecdote of a request by one of Mr Nipper's children to skip the commercials in a live television broadcast. The post also displays a charming photo of the child. I have a lot of sympathy for the little boy. My recollection of American telly from my days as a graduate student in Los Angeles is that commercials can go on for quite a long time. I was told that the reason for a lot of irritating breaks at American football and basketball matches was that the broadcasters needed time to run their advertisements. I think that is why I have never been able to take to American sports even though my university won the student basketball championship several years in a row and was second only to another local university in the regional American football competition when I was there.

Mr Nipper reflects on all the changes to IP practice that have taken place in the USA since his first child was born. He says that that child was born 7 years ago - just one year after I opened NIPC in Manchester. It reminded me of all the changes that have taken place here too. Many are the same as those that Mr Nipper mentions in his post. But we have also had some of our own such as public access to the Bar, the exclusion of civil legal aid for business disputes requiring, the Civil Procedure Rules, increasing competition in our market from the rest of Europe as a result of Council Regulation 44/2001  - to mention just a few. We can expect even more change when the Department of Constitutional Affairs publishes its promised white paper this autumn.

One thing that Mr Nipper says that is undoubtedly true:

“Most of these changes weren't driven by attorneys wanting to earn more money. It's hard to argue that simplifying things, ease of use and speed are synonymous with billing by the hour. They aren't. Instead, these changes were driven by the public, by entrepreneurs and by access to technology.”

He says he is “thankful to be involved with this great rethinking of the practice of IP law.”  The members of these chambers, Ekundayo Cole-Wilson, Alex Khan, Richard Aird and I certainly are.

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