The autumn is the season of international IP conferences. In September, I participated together with my colleagues Karri Leskinen and Tomi Salter in the World Congress of AIPPI (The International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property) in Cancún, Mexico.
In terms of the number of participants, the AIPPI World Congress is not the largest conference in the field of IP Law. However, it is difficult to find another conference that can challenge the AIPPI World Congress in diversity. This year, the theme for the conference was Between Sky and Earth. During the conference there were presentations and panel discussions on various topics ranging from challenges related to the use of AI, biosimilars, SPCs for pharmaceuticals, standard essential patents, block-chain technology and the doctrine of equivalence. In addition, genuine use of trademarks and the use of survey evidence were discussed as well as the famous The Slants ruling by the US Supreme Court relating to the name of the band.
The quest for international harmonisation
Committee work with the aim of international harmonisation lies at the heart of the activities of the AIPPI. Also, this year, hundreds of IP professionals gathered together to discuss various topics in the field of IP law requiring international harmonisation. In Cancún, resolutions concerning topics such as joint liability for IP infringement, and the question of so-called conflicting patent applications, partial designs, and the registrability of 3D trademarks were adopted based upon the reports that had been prepared before the conference by the national groups. For instance, it was considered that the threshold for registering 3D shapes is too high. Therefore, it was desired that the substantial value to the goods criterion should no longer prevent owners from registering their trademarks in the EU.
In addition, a resolution relating to use of post-filing data in support of inventive step/non-obviousness was adopted. However, one of the most discussed topics was related to the ongoing project of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) and, whether or not, intellectual property should be excluded from the scope of the Convention. The draft resolution relating to the remuneration of employee inventions proved to be a difficult and controversial topic, and it was therefore decided that the work in this matter continues next year.
Building a strong international network
When attending international conferences, a priority for us is to establish new contacts with foreign IP experts and to maintain the already strong connections we have with our existing foreign partners. This is to ensure that our clients have the best possible customer experience. Since Finnish companies are operating on the international market, it is important for them to obtain sufficient protection for the IP at an early stage of the product development, at least in the most relevant market-areas. In the IP field, we are working in a fast-paced and ever-changing global world – it is crucial to have a global and reliable collaborative network. In such a complex environment, the personal contacts and meetings become very important.
After long and busy conference days, we were able to socialize more freely with old acquaintances but also to create new acquaintances. At best, international colleagues will also become good friends over time, and one of the finest moments during the conference was being able to attend to a dinner arranged in honor of a Canadian colleague’s 50th anniversary.
The immediate and warm atmosphere of the conference was undoubtedly influenced by the fact that the dress code was more relaxed than usual. During the first days, there were still plenty of suits around, but already on the second day the participants had changed to traditional white guayabera shirts. The conference culminated in a Caribbean style dinner, where the participants were all dressed in white.
Next year, the World Congress will be arranged in a Post-Brexit London in September.
The author is an IP Lawyer at Boco IP and the Treasurer of AIPPI Finland.