Friday, 4 September 2015

Who does what in IP?

Statistics are fun, you can torture them to say whatever you want. Unfortunately sometimes the information produced is in the form of incomprehensible screams.

A case in point is provided by the UK statistics on "Turnover of Legal Activities" [latest issue can be found in a spreadsheet here].

These statistics provide monthly turnover figures for Barristers, Solicitors, and a combined category "copyright and patent agents" [neither term in this category being graced with a capital letter].

Using hacker's statistics (choice of a selective time period and linear extrapolation) it would appear that the economic activity of patent and copyright agents would match those of solicitors in about six years’ time [is this a 2020 vision for those described as patent and copyright agents?].

The net balance of payments for legal services in 2013 was a positive £3.3 billion and it would be nice to determine how those exports were distributed among the various legal categories.

It would also be nice to know how much of the activity of patent and copyright agents was attributable to each of these peculiarly different professions/businesses. [The word "agents" seems to be all that is in common between them, just as "ch" is all that is in common between chalk and cheese].

How much of the activity of patent and copyright agents relates to services primarily related to the exploitation of artistic, literary and musical matters? And how much to services primarily related to the establishment, creation, licensing and assertion of registered intellectual property rights?

It would also be nice to have some kind of reliable baseline to compare with, so that when the Unified Patent Court and the Unitary Patent arrive the effect on trade in services can be assessed.

In short there are a lot of nice things we could have, but haven't.

Classification is a difficult exercise, and to maintain comparability between countries it is important that reporting is on a common basis [the UK SIC classification follows the European NACE classification which follows the UN ISIC classification]. However, everyone knows that there is a difference between accounting for reporting purposes, and management accounting. Why not so with government statistics?

When adhering to a classification hides information, and aggregates wildly different professions with wildly different business models, one has to ask why the Office of National Statistics don't have statistics that inform, in addition to producing statistics that conform.

Perhaps the legal professions should lobby ONS for more informative statistics.