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Looking back … and forward at AIPPI

The Toronto Congress marks the end of an era for two of AIPPI’s long-serving volunteers. Secretary General Stephan Freischem of Germany will be standing down after eight years on the Bureau, while Reporter General Thierry Calame has served 13 years

That time has seen some big developments in the association, says Freischem: “It’s changed where it needed to change. Bureau members have tried to be more accessible. Communication has become less formal and faster, while we have tried to maintain a high level of accuracy and an integrative approach.” The strategy report provided by Robin Rolfe in 2012 showed that AIPPI had to become more flexible, he adds, given that its structure dates back to the late nineteenth century when worldwide communication took days or even weeks. “The most significant change is we now look to the future rather than dwelling on the past,” says Freischem.

Calame, who has served four years as Reporter General, as well as five years as assistant and four years as deputy, adds that one area where structures have been improved is the collaboration between the research side of the association and the programming: “The selection of the working questions and how we address them has improved.” He said AIPPI has also improved in responding to topical IP issues while maintaining its thorough research processes

Freischem says a highlight during his term has been “the positive interaction with those who define the rules for IP protection”. He cites the “rewarding” experience of engaging with offices including the EPO and JPO, as well as WIPO and WTO. Calame says he welcomes some of the interesting educational sessions at the Congress, such as the mock trials and arbitration tribunal and the Pharma Day.

He adds that, looking back over the past decade, there have been difficult discussions over issues such as plain packaging and the Unified Patent Court, but the results made the effort worthwhile: “Within the Reporter General team, we worked closely on these issues and really fought for them.” One challenging issue was injunctive relief, which was hotly debated at the ExCo in Hyderabad, but has led to valuable work on patents and standards in Committee.

Calame, whose office is five minutes away from AIPPI’s headquarters in Zurich, says AIPPI plays a different role to other associations: “What makes us unique is our thorough comparative legal process. It’s cumbersome, but it’s very effective. We collect the national reports and study them in detail.” He says that means that its views are more balanced, citing a workshop on plain packaging held at the 2012 Congress in Seoul.

The international process also means that AIPPI can be a test run for negotiations at the international level, for example at WIPO. Freischem cites the recent work on the grace period, which led to a resolution at last year’s ExCo in Helsinki. “I think after the America Invents Act there is momentum building for tackling the remaining substantive harmonization issues, but it will take time.” he says, adding that the AIPPI resolution is “a clear statement of a simple and effective harmonized grace period to the benefit of ­inventors”.

Calame urged new members to get involved with the working questions through their national group and the Congress committee meetings: “It is a unique opportunity to work on interesting problems with colleagues from all over the world and that means it’s a unique networking opportunity too.”

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