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  1. Faces of Chemistry

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    August 2, 2013 by IPAlchemist

    Well would you credit it?  Your very own IPAlchemist is now A Face of Chemistry!  Those who said I had to choose – I could be a lawyer or a chemist but not both – well they were wrong.

    Before I go on to explain what on earth I am talking about, I have to give the now-usual obligatory apology.  It has been MONTHS since I posted here.  It is not that nothing has been happening – far from it – but that what blogging time I have has been exclusively reserved for the IPKat (check out the Publications page for a periodically updated list of IPKat posts) with the only occasional foray as a guest blogger on the India-specialist Spicy IP blog.  There have been some other writings as well, but for those too you have to peek at the Publications page as well.

    Anyway, a little while ago those lovely people at the Royal Society of Chemistry (and I mean it – they really are lovely) asked if I would mind being filmed for the Faces of Chemistry series.  You can check the RSC’s explanation of the series on the Faces of Chemistry microsite, but my understanding is that they are aimed at young adults, and that the intention is to encourage people to study chemistry to show what an amazing range of career opportunities it leads to.  Well that is very much my bag, and I will do anything I can to further and improve the public image of chemistry, so of course I said yes.

    We burbled around for a little while making all the arrangements, and then on the appointed day two wonderful people came from the RSC with a cameraman who brought with him all that impressive looking kit.  The way they structured it was that the nice lady asked me lots of open questions, and then I was supposed to reply in such a way that when they edited out the questions, the answers by themselves would make sense.  Well I soon got the hang of it and we were away.  And then before I knew it they said they had enough material and that was it.

    We had agreed that they would also film around the office, with me lecturing, working, discussing cases, and so on, and that they would also interview two other chemists in the firm – Fergus Tyrrell who is my trainee, and Robert Lundie-Smith who is an IP solicitor.  This would give different perspectives on the topic.

    It turned out that they had so much material that they made two films – one of me, and one of Fergus and Robert.  So a little while later two draft edits appeared in my inbox.

    Well, dear readers, I can tell you that although I can handle speaking in public and even being filmed, watching it back is quite another thing altogether.  All three of us found it excruciating watching ourselves, and my toes curled with embarrassment.  Why do I go “Ummm” so much?  Why do I look shiftily to one side when I am thinking?  Why did no-one tell me?  And do I really sound like that?  Not to mention look like that?  Apparently I do.  So I have watched the proofs twice for quality control purposes (in fact they were perfectly edited and I didn’t request any changes, and neither did my colleagues), and then never again.  Well, maybe one day I will bear to look once more.

    Anyway you can go and watch them yourself on You Tube – Me and Robert and Fergus.  I will be very happy if you “like” it.

    Or if you prefer it embedded in the RSC website, see here  for the series, and the individual resources of me and Robert/Fergus.

    The IPAlchemist would like to thank the RSC for a great opportunity.  It has been a joy and a privilege to be associated with this project.

     

     


  2. Stop Horsing Around With Our Food – RSC Public Lecture

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    April 18, 2013 by IPAlchemist

    On 14th March 2013 the IP Alchemist attended a panel discussion hosted by the Royal Society of Chemistry, entitled “Stop Horsing Around with Our Food”; the goal being to “tease out the issues to be tackled” in the wake of the recent horsemeat scandal and the progressively decreasing amounts of resources made available for food sampling and analysis.

    The event took the form of a brief talk from each panellist followed by a question-and-answer session. The panel of industry experts consisted of:

    - Dr Derek Craston, UK Government Chemist, Chief Scientific Officer at LGC and chair of the panel.

    - Gerald Heddell, Director of Inspection, Enforcement and Standards Division at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

    - Dr Mark Woolfe, member of the RSC’s Analytical Methods Committee and formerly of the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

    - Liz Moran, President of the Association of Public Analysts.

    Dr Craston began proceedings by indicating that any food analysis or testing only usually takes place in relation to known issues, after a problem had been brought to light. Current resources are insufficient to test in areas where no issue has been identified.

    Dr Woolfe stated that he was “not that surprised” that food adulteration had taken place and that he was only surprised by the scale of the issue. He said that the food chain had become longer, because price pressure from supermarkets led suppliers to source food production from abroad. He added that any supply chain should be as short as possible to avoid any untoward contamination.

    Gerald Heddell looked at parallels with regulation of medical products. He stated that the answer cannot lie solely in testing but requires regulation of the supply chain: a poorly-regulated supply chain could not be compensated for by any amount of testing or analysis. He reported that 60% of adults have changed their shopping habits in the wake of the scandal, indicative of a collapse of confidence in the sector as a whole.

    Liz Moran, of the Association of Public Analysts, painted a rather bleak picture of the decline of the UK food analysis system which is currently “in the eye of the storm” with 30% of the UK’s food testing laboratories having closed over the last few years resulting in a significant loss of expertise. She went on to argue that labs need to be able to react quickly to problems that present themselves and help the FSA. This issue was not routinely tested for before, but now labs were working round the clock testing beef for equine and porcine DNA. She stated that laboratories must be prepared for the next issue that presents itself and that regulation via paperwork would be insufficient due to possibility of forgery.

    The floor was then opened to questions and contributions. Dr Chris Smart of Leatherhead Foods defended the industry and argued that food safety and traceability were taken very seriously. He pointed out that when fraud happens (of which there have been a number – orange juice, baby formula, olive oil) it can be hard to spot when it first happens, emphasising the importance of the integrity of the chain. When a question was raised regarding the acceptability of hiding cheap ingredients in processed food, he pointed out that one cannot simply “hide” ingredients and that doing so was illegal. He argued that there was nothing wrong with convenience food and that such products addressed a consumer demand. He pointed out that consumers have an expectation that products have good shelf life, but taking out emulsifiers, salt, and other ingredients can compromise this.

    On the question as to whether cheaper and faster testing was being developed, Dr Woolfe outlined the immense number of issues surrounding food analysis, indicating for example that the presence of methanol in drinks is easy enough to detect whereas determining the geographic origin of meat is far more challenging.

    One enquiry which aroused much interest from the panel was the question of how sensitive and specific the tests for horse meat were. Liz Moran immediately indicated that the last thing any lab would want to do is report a false positive result, and indeed that no lab would declare anything without undertaking repeat measurements. She went on to indicate that ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay) tests are sensitive to 1% and PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing is sensitive to just 0.01 %, posing a further question as to what exactly constitutes an acceptable limit, pointing out that detection of equine DNA is not the same thing as establishing that the meat is horse meat as such.

    Mark Woolfe pointed out that surveys and investigation come from intelligence – often from within the food industry itself, while Gerald Heddell re-iterated that testing cannot rule out all risk and that supply chain management is also key.

    Ms Moran understandably criticised cuts to testing labs. When questioned, she explained that there have been cuts to DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) but that local authorities also have responsibility for testing. The number of samples taken by local authorities has been declining in recent years and some have reported no testing at all to the FSA. Naturally these cuts were implicated in the fact that the horsemeat problem did not first come to light in the UK.

    The IP Alchemist very much enjoyed this evening and thanks the RSC for putting it on in a very short timescale. He did however feel that each of the speakers pretty much said what you might have them to say, given their current or previous affiliation, and pretty much the same went for the audience contributions (where their loyalties were stated). Cuts were blamed where expected, and the importance of consumer choice and demand were also emphasised by precisely those who would be expected as well.

    The IP Alchemist would like to thank his Twitter interlocutors, in particular @RSC_Comms, @chemical_ian, @melancholysci, and @chiara_ceci for enlivening the evening, and for creating a record on which this blog post could be based. The hashtag used for the event was #stophorsingaround. He is also enormously thankful to Fergus Tyrrell for assisting with the first draft of this report.

    The event was webcast live, and there is a promise that the recording will be made available, but as at the posting time this has not yet occurred.

     


  3. Factum est silentium…

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    March 18, 2013 by IPAlchemist

    …or The Sound of Silence

    I have not explained, dear readers, why I have been out of commission for such a long time.  I did not inform you, as I should have done, that I re-joined the IPKat weblog as a permanent member earlier in the year.  So such blogging activity as I have undertaken has been there.  I won’t post here when I post things to the IPKat, but I will from time to time update “Publications” with my IPKat pieces.

    I do have a couple of non-IP related things to post about, so do not give up hope here.  I shall still be blogging from time to time.  I won’t spoil the surprise by saying what they are.


  4. Genesis 2012 – Better late than never?

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    January 18, 2013 by IPAlchemist

    It is now over a month since Genesis, the UK’s flagship life science and healthcare networking conference. I had always intended blogging about it – I was very excited to attend the whole event for the first time, because in previous years the most that I managed was to pop in for a little while, or attend the dinner. The problem is that, after the event was over, nothing really came into my mind that I wanted to say. So the blog piece got put off, until now, at the one-month stage, I feel I really need to write it, whatever.

    Normally when I go to an event, I come away with something that I want to say, but on this occasion it didn’t really happen. It is not that I did not enjoy the event – I enjoyed it immensely. I met many interesting people for the first time, as well as running into various One Nucleus stalwarts that it was a pleasure to see again. There were of course many patent attorneys in attendance (although with some notable and noticeable absences), and it is rarely disappointing to meet a patent attorney. There were many interesting and stimulating discussions, as well as the formal presentations.

    In particular I attended the afternoon session on Antibody-Based Therapeutics which yielded many fascinating brief stories (although one, which I feel I should not name, was basically “We have great idea but it is so early stage we can’t tell you what it is yet. It might not work – we don’t know yet, but if it does it will be amazing”).

    In the morning I attended a case study on the deal between Astex, Cancer Research Technology and The Institute of Cancer Research relating, of course, to an anticancer compound. This revealed fascinating insights into how such complex deals come into existence and what drives the terms and the choice of partner.

    I also attended the morning plenary session and the afternoon plenary debate. And perhaps that is the issue. Annual events such as Genesis prompt a certain amount of navel gazing. The industry as a whole, in its widest sense including service providers and academia as well as pharmaceutical and biotech companies of whatever type, considers “are we in good shape”? And now seems a particularly troubling time to ask this question, because, as the plenary debate made clear, one can equally argue for optimism pointing to all sorts of wonderful positive signs, as for pessimism pointing to all the harbingers of doom. And I wonder whether it might not be better if the answer was clearly negative, because then we could agree that there is a problem and do something about it: I feel maybe that the lack of consensus is itself the reason for the feeling of unease.

    I will end on a harbinger of optimism, a fellow blogger that I have added to my blogroll, Lucy Robertshaw. Lucy was a model of optimism and enterprise, having moved from the UK to Sweden to set up her own consultancy company. She also cleverly worked out that if you get the right photo, you can do quite a short post!  That was my APAA strategy, but foolishly I took no snaps at Genesis.


  5. Apple v Samsung in the Court of Appeal – the end of Cool? (Reuters)

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    October 18, 2012 by IPAlchemist

    I went to the Court of Appeal this morning for the handing down of the decision in Samsung v Apple – which could be the last word in the dispute between the parties, insofar as it relates to the design of tablet computers within the EU.

    The decision itself is now available electronically here.

    I sent an immediate comment on the piece to the IPKat, which you can see here.

    What was new for me, however, was getting talking to a Reuters reporter, Stephen Eisenhammer, who then rang me later to discuss the case.  As a result I have been extensively quoted.  The original Reuters piece says:

    “I expect this will be the end of the line. An appeal to the Supreme Court is in principle possible but there has been no indication so far that Apple plan such an appeal”, Darren Smyth partner at EIP, a specialist intellectual property law firm, told Reuters.

    “For the design of tablets in Europe this should be the final word.”

    (You can see the full article here).

    This has now been extensively picked up by publications around the world, and I have seen it translated into Spanish, Portuguese, and German.

    I have just got off the phone to Dow Jones, so will be interesting to see where it leads…

    The original decision stands (Samsung does not infringe Apple’s Community Registered Design).  This decision applies throughout the EU, not just in the UK.  Apple have to publish the decision in three national newspapers, the Financial Times, the Daily Mail and The Guardian, and in two trade magazines, Mobile Magazine and T3 magazine, in the following terms:

    On 9th July 2012 the High Court of Justice of England and Wales ruled that Samsung Electronic (UK) Limited’s Galaxy Tablet Computers, namely the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Tab 8.9 and Tab 7.7 do not infringe Apple’s registered design No. 0000181607-0001. A copy of the full judgment of the High court is available on the following link [link given].

    That Judgment has effect throughout the European Union and was upheld by the Court of Appeal on ….. A copy of the Court of Appeal’s judgment is available on the following link […]. There is no injunction in respect of the registered design in force anywhere in Europe.

     

    This must be published in a font size no smaller than Arial 14pt and appear on a page earlier than page 6.  And a link to this must appear on Apple’s homepage.

    And unless there is an appeal to the Supreme Court (who are not obliged to hear any appeal), then this seems to be the end of the line for the design dispute on tablets in Europe for these parties.

    UPDATE at 6.30pm:

    The Dow Jones conversation led to a quotation in this article in the Wall Street Journal:

    Darren Smyth, patent and design attorney at law firm EIP, said the ruling also covered disputes over design in other European courts.

    “The Court of Appeal’s ruling is valid across the European Union because Apple’s registered design was a European Union-wide right. In these circumstances, the High Court and the Court of Appeal have …jurisdiction for the whole of the E.U., not just the U.K.,” Smyth said.


  6. Sunday morning

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    September 16, 2012 by IPAlchemist

    It’s Sunday morning, and I’m just watching my favourite television news programme, the Andrew Marr show.

    I thought in between interesting news items, I would take the opportunity to try a new way of coming up with a blog post. Since I’m generally using ordinary words, why not try the iPhone 4S Siri feature? I thought that this might be an easier and quicker way to compile a post than typing the old-fashioned way. Furthermore, I have noticed that it’s quite difficult to proof-read a long blog post in the input window on WordPress, and, when entering previous text, I have only noticed mistakes when actually publishing the post on the blog. This has resulted in a rather lengthy procedure of publishing, spotting another typo, going back and amending it, and [DaCapo ad libitum]. Wow! Siri recognised that musical direction!

    Siri also doesn’t seem to like working within WordPress itself, and so I am using my old trick of dictating in a blank email and then copying and pasting. If you’re reading this, it worked! If you are a blogger, how do you assemble your blogs? What is your time-saving trick?

    UPDATE – it did not work that well!  The text came out in strange formatting and different sizes, so I had to go into the post on my laptop and rescue.  But the content worked…  I need to do some work on this aspect.


  7. Asian Patent Attorneys’ Association Meeting Chiang Mai 2012

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    September 13, 2012 by IPAlchemist

    So, APAA is coming up.  It will be my first time to visit.  I have wanted to go for the longest time, but previously the “one observer per non-member firm” rule made it impossible for me.  Of course, as a UK-based UK and European Patent Attorney, I am not eligible to be a member of APAA.

    Never before will I have seen so many patent attorneys in one place, with the possible exception of a party that I went to at AIPPI in Geneva.  So I am really looking forward to it.

    Of course I am looking forward to meeting old friends from Japan, but the really amazing aspect is the opportunity to meet so many attorneys from countries which I have not had a chance to visit yet (which is all except Japan, Singapore and New Zealand, and my trip to NZ was a holiday, so I didn’t meet any patent attorneys…  Actually the Singapore visits were both very brief, so I didn’t see much other than the fascinating Jurong Island.)

    If you chance by my blog and are going to APAA, look me up and say hi to the IP Alchemist!