Friday, 4 December 2015

Editorial - Starbucks from start to finish

Starbucks from start to finish - Darren Olivier

Last week I had the real privilege of being able to join the tribute to Jeremy Phillips on the occasion of his retirement celebrated at  JIPLP's 10th anniversary conference held in London. The #JIPLP10 on twitter documents some of the reaction to it and indeed includes an entire webcast of it.

I first emailed Jeremy in December 2007 to request his assistance in starting this blog. He answered immediately (as he has ever since) inviting me to have a chat with him at Starbucks on the ground floor of the Olswang offices in Holborn where we discussed his first post, why the IP world needed a blog on Africa (with no interest there would be no readers) and how this might all work.

It is one of the best hours I have spent with anyone. I sat with my coffee (probably brewed from African beans) exchanging ideas with someone who was as grounded as those beans yet percolating with ideas and insights on Africa that clearly indicated his interest and why it was not only a good idea but necessary for this type of repository of information on IP covering the continent. It was and remains necessary for Africa to make IP more accessible, debated and understood both to its people and to those interested in working with the continent.

My own interest in the blog was in part motivated by that very problem; I was returning to Africa after a decade in London and had nowhere to research or understand developments in IP. Law firm reports (if they existed) were not up to date nor designed for that purpose. Universities still marginalised IP. Journals could only be accessed via subscription and legal decisions on IP published sporadically. Jeremy's thoughts were later encapsulated in a very popular editorial for JIPLP here and documented by Managing Intellectual Property here, who have, incidentally, also supported us ever since.

Jeremy's support created instant credibility and interest and his guidance has been invaluable. For that everyone with an interest in African IP, including external investors, have much to thank him for. He has helped, in a considerable way, enable the discussion on African IP to reach a much larger and more influential audience and not just through this blog but through IPKat and JIPLP, in particular.

And this blog has made even a small difference. For example, Kingsley's epic posts on the online presence of African IP registries have helped spur on those Registries to improve their interface with consumers. Funders of African IP (whether it be actual funds or support) have been acknowledged creating more access to support and judges and policy makers have expressed gratitude because the content has assisted them in their decision making.  There is however much that still needs doing; a message that resounded last week too.

My Bed by Tracey Emin
Jeremy's parting speech last week made My Bed an analogy. He used it to illustrate, amongst other things, that your view on IP is highly influenced by your vantage point and who you are. For example, if you were sleeping in it, you may think it perfectly in order but from other viewpoints it's a complete mess. This is no different when applied to African IP relative to others as it is to IP relative to the world. My own point here is that Africans need to be more vocal to express, understand and be understood on African IP issues, and this blog can play a part in helping that process. It does however, need more good content and participation.

In a kind parting gesture, Jeremy invited me to join him and others at Reubens in Baker Street for dinner. It's seldom that you sit in the presence of a judge let alone opposite one that is as influential on IP as Judge Arnold, but there I was. And when this happens you speak about his kids, not the little ones that need nappies but his judgements, especially ones that reference South African cases. We spoke about Starbucks.

Best wishes for your retirement Jeremy.

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