France: Merger Debate Stalled in Entrenched Fights?
Last December I had picked up reports on a debate currently ongoing in France to perform a merger between the profession of the Patent Attorneys ("conseils en Propriété Industrielle") with the profession of the Lawyers ("avocats").
Yesterday, Mr Pierre Breese reported that a number of French patent attorneys appear to be convinced that the merger is a necessary and desirable evolution, and some are prepared enthusiastically for for such a step, some merely to follow reluctantly the path of unification as envisaged. Favourable for a modernisation of the profession, they are aware that the market for IP law and customer expectations imply a change in conditions for the exercise of their profession. However, others are decidedly resisting to any change and would not end their careers in any form other than the one they had always known. As a result, according to Mr Breese's report, the positions seem to get entrenched and, strangely, representatives of the French patent attorneys now, one month before a crucial deadline, start questioning their legitimacy to negotiate, while for weeks they had met ministers, and government partners.
Mr Breese asks why the profession of lawyers could not be opened, on the basis as planned, for the French patent attorneys who prefer to move, leaving back those who want to continue working with the current status.
This French debate appears to be an overall attempt to strengthen France as a EU Member State attracting IP business, in particular, but not limited to, litigation matters under some much anticipated EU Patent Court system.
Any idea that an entire national profession of patent attorneys like the French one could be merged into the profession of lawyers, with bearable burdens for additional training and with all related consequences in view of the right to appear before all sorts of courts, was received with disbelief and disaffirmation amongst German patent attorneys as far as I can tell. In view of the German traditions of training lawyers I would even be prepared to go as far as to say that it appears to be inconceivable to launch any political project similar to that currently debated in France for the remainder of this century because of the German profession of lawyers never will be ready to co-operate in such a game even if some political pressure were exerted by the German Government.
[UPDATE 2008-01-29] Mr Breese reports in a new posting that today an important step was taken by the members of the Institute of the French patent attorneys who voted with a two-thirds majority for a motion in favour of the continuation of the negotiations currently underway for a merger with the profession of lawyers. On February 08, 2008, a general assembly of the National Bar Council will have to decide on a similar motion. The next step will then be approval of draft rules governing the merger between the two professions by the two professions before presenting a common text at the Chancery in late February 2008. This text will then be submitted to Parliament to succeed if the two professions confirm their agreement a unified profession integrating Industrial Property Counsel in the legal profession.
The 600 french patent and trademark attorneys will decide on January 29th if they want this merger or not.
The result is very unforeseeable. A petition was signed by more than 280 persons in only 3 days, among them a lot of lawyers specialized in IP, and some partners of big french patent law firms. The petition is supported by the national confederation of french employers.
Mr Horns my compliments, for running this story. Let the French come up with their own solution, to the problem of how to litigate patents in Europe. Germany and UK have already got their solutions worked out, and they are quite different. In England, patent attorney litigators compete for business with attorneys at law (For an example, see your story just before this one. One side represented by a patent attorney alone, the other by a barrister senior enough to be a QC. The patent attorney got the win.) In Germany, the two professions co-operate. The customers choose England or Germany, sometimes both. Maybe France can devise a model that is better than both of Germany and UK, and the customers will then go to France. Perhaps.
@anonymous Perhaps indeed ;-) but I doubt it. The French legislator has a longstanding history of incompetent or incomplete lawmaking, and besides, we (the French CPI) are far too good at puffing up our chests and fanning our tails in public to be taken seriously :-p