Does every artist need to be a Picasso?

For quite some time, publishers, notably in the UK, have found a smart way of making big money out of lawyers and IP professional’s vanity. Legal 500, Super Lawyers, The Best Lawyers in America, Chambers and Partners, to name a few among the many, are rating and ranking lawyers and their firms. It’s not enough to be a good lawyer you need to be a “top” lawyer. Not only the legal profession has been affected by this. In the culinary world you are only be taken seriously in many publications, TV series, and the like, if (s)he is a “top” chef. Are you an artist doing well in your small community or even only within one country? International fame is only yours if you are a “top” artist.

Isn’t all this reaching the absurd? Do you really need to be a Picasso to be a reputable painter or artist? Of course not. But publishers have made us believe that only those lawyers that are being ranked as “top” in their respective fields are worth hiring. That only those IP practitioners that are “top” or “most influential” make the difference. Nonsensical of course, but the profession has fallen for the publisher’s trap, by the dozens. Almost all sizeable law firms these days will go out of their way to reach the ranks of being “top” attorneys. IP professionals are only taken seriously if they reach the heavy ranks of “top strategists”.

Five years ago IAM (Intellectual Asset Magazine, a publication of Global White Page Ltd.) started  “The World’s Leading IP Strategistsnow expanding to 300 “top” advisers on IP strategies. As IAM states on their webpage: “those individuals identified by our research team – with a great deal of help from the wider IP community – as offering operating companies and other IP owners world-class advice on maximizing the value of their intellectual property”.

In that same year, 2008,  we asked ourselves in our blog IP Strategist – What’s in a Name? what makes someone a true strategist in intellectual property, let alone a “top” strategist? IAM claims there are now 300 instead of the 250 initially covered. Strategy is a sexy business to be in. It makes you important, right? Who doesn’t to be seen as “strategically” strong and be seen as a “top” professional?

Competition could not stay behind. Euromoney (what’s in a name?) has their own publisher’s brainchild. Over the years they “nominate” masters of the IP universe as “most influential people in IP”. In the July/August issue of Managing Intellectual Property, they present “50 people determining the future of intellectual property”. Can you imagine? Not only is it enough to be a top IP lawyer or Top IP strategist, but you can also only be taken seriously now if you can shape the future. Nothing less than that. Surely we can see the new book coming out”300 most influential people in IP”. Not part of the list? You must be a loser, left out from the real world, where it all happens.

The source? According to MIP they have “journalists in New York, London and Hong Kong” who “hold few conference calls”, speak to some of their “most forthcoming contacts” and voila there you have the must-be list of the best-of-the-best in IP. To make the result of the research more persuasive, MIP calls the identification of the 50 most influential IP persons “a tricky process”. So who are they? MIP: “people who create it, legislate for it and defend it, as well as those who spend their careers thinking about its impact on society and the economy, and those who push back against it”. I guess I will never be one of them although I have done all that, pushing against the absurdum of this be-part-of-the-top-or-lose game.

Wouldn’t it be great if we just held a poll among all IP blog readers in the world not only to hear names but rather more hear about deeds of persons who in their life made a real difference in intellectual property? What about the IP attorney in Belgium defending a trademark case successfully before a Belgian court, it made all the difference for the trademark owner. What about the member of parliament in Lithuania who spoke knowledgeably about IP and made a difference in Lithuania’s IP laws? It made all the difference for Lithuanians. What about the district court judge in Spain who wrote an IP ruling that people even after years still refer to as making all the difference in Spain? What about the Dutch blogger with a couple of thousand readers who first grouped all EU IP case law on his website? What about the German law professor who made all the difference to his students being critical of IP and its role in innovation?

I bet there will be hundreds of names of real heroes, some too small, most unknown to the larger audience. Aren’t they the real IP mind changers, the persons who make IP what it is today? Isn’t that much more relevant than stimulating narcissism among IP professionals?

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