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Fordham IP Conference 2014: Day 1 highlights

James Nurton rounds up five bits of news from the first day of the Fordham IP Conference in New York

  • Want to make your point about IP? Call on a US president. That was one of the lessons from the first day of this year’s Fordham IP Conference. In her lunchtime speech on transparency, USPTO Deputy Director Michelle Lee quoted extensively from Thomas Jefferson. Former PTO Director David Kappos, meanwhile, used his morning slot to deliver an open letter to Abraham Lincoln. So who will be the first speaker to appeal to President Obama?

  • Probir J Mehta, acting assistant US Trade Representative, probably had the least enviable role at the conference this year. Not only was he the first speaker on the opening panel at 8am on Thursday. Not only did he have to deal with Professor Hugh Hansen’s famously inquisitorial moderation. But his predecessor and former boss, Stanford McCoy (who recently joined the Motion Picture Association) was sat on the front row in his capacity as a “designated audience member”. Hansen couldn’t resist teasing McCoy about his new role: “You’ve never looked so well, Stan!”

  • Flattery will get you everywhere – or at least to the top of WIPO. Francis Gurry, recently reelected as the Organisation’s Director General, opened his speech yesterday morning by describing Fordham as “the Davos of IP” and Hansen as the “leading IP impresario”. He went on to discuss issues ranging from new copyright treaties to the need for action on trade secrets and the political difficulties of protecting traditional knowledge. His speech also touched on themes that have recurred throughout the conference: public legitimacy; transparency; secrecy; and coherence where there are overlapping international regimes and agreements.

  • During the afternoon, moderating a panel on trade marks and the Court of Justice of the EU (which was reported on the IP Kat blog), featuring Judge Allan Rosas of the Court, I joked that the session would be divided into two halves: in the first half, Judge Rosas would give us his perspective on trade marks at the CJEU; in the second half, the panellists (including Paul Maier of OHIM and Sir Robin Jacob) would disagree with him. Sadly, my prediction was not fulfilled as the panellists managed to agree on many points, including that four instances (examination/opposition/cancellation; Board of Appeal; General Court; Court of Justice) is one too many for CTM disputes; and that there should be some form of leave to appeal to reduce the workload on the Luxembourg courts.

  • There’s a strong attendance at Fordham from Europe. It was nearly not the case, though. One flight from London to New York on Wednesday was delayed by a technical fault, only detected just before it was about to take off. The passengers, including many IP practitioners, had to wait on the tarmac for three hours while the aircraft was fixed. As one told Managing IP: “At least it gave me more time to work on my eight-minute conference presentation.” Who says IP lawyers are not resourceful?

Look out for a review of day 2 at Fordham on the blog soon. In the meantime, read updates on twitter (#fordhamip).

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