Due to Covid-19, the FICPI Patent Drafting Course – South East Asian (SEAD) Edition 2019 which normally takes place in-person in the Philippines, moved online for the third segment, we explain how participants and organisers found the experience.

Authors: Editha R. Hechanova & Chrissie Ann Barredo

The Covid-19 pandemic posed a great challenge to FICPI SEAD course leader Geoffrey deKleine and tutors David Carmichael, Karl Rackette, Simon Roberts, Dennis Drehkoff and Scott  Gordon.  

Segment 1 went ahead as planned, with a series of tutorials and workshops presented over five days in December 2019 in the Philippines.         

However, while segment 2, tutorial by correspondence,  was ongoing,  flight restrictions and lockdowns of varying degree in different countries were being put in place. 

By March, 2020  it was still not clear whether the dreaded virus would disappear in the summer as many were hoping. There was, however, a decision to be made: to defer the third and final segment of the 2019-2020 FICPI South East Patent Drafting Course (FICPI SEAD) scheduled to take place in Manila, Philippines, during June 2020, and to move it to November or December, or go online. 

Course leader Geoffrey de Kleine sent out a survey to all participants asking whether they had any objections or reservations around doing the course remotely. Whilst many said they would prefer to have the sessions in Manila at a later date, they were also open to the idea of having the course online. 

Since the Covid-19 situation was getting worse, and no foreseeable relief was in sight, the tutors chose to make the course virtual. The tutors worked on the agenda which took some time to develop because the participants and tutors were on  different time zones, making it impossible to run the course over the normal 5 days.

Also,  the wellbeing and comfort of the participants had to be considered.  Participants cannot really stay glued to the computer for over 4 hours a day and still absorb and make the most of new knowledge, and we could not ask participants to stay up during their sleeping hours. 

Instead of the originally-scheduled dates of June 1st to June 5th this year, the final segment was instead spread over two weeks, from June 1st to June 12th, with lectures and workshops conducted via the Zoom video conferencing platform.

There were a few technical glitches in the beginning, but these were very quickly resolved; and it was not long before the remote lectures from the tutors and group presentations from the participants proceeded smoothly, as scheduled.

While conducting the final segment remotely was more convenient and cost-efficient, as participants were able to attend the lectures and workshops from the comfort of their own homes and offices, the participants agreed that there is clearly no substitute for personal or face-to-face interaction between and among the participants and the tutors. Especially during the group workshops, where participants naturally seem to be more engaged and interactive when in person; and online it was a little bit more difficult to have one-to-one consultations with the tutors, when needed. Also, participants had less opportunity to network and mingle like they did during the first segment of the course.

However, it was evident that the participants were able to apply what they learned during the first segment and over the course of completing their home assignments, as there was much improvement in their work as they continued to hone their skills in drafting patent specifications and claims. In this third segment of the course, participants also learned more about drafting for different jurisdictions and enforcement and infringement, through lectures prepared by the tutors.

The participants always looked forwards to the plenary sessions with both anticipation and dread since each group had to present their work for everyone to evaluate. During these sessions the tutors were able to display their expertise and ease in converting complex processes into simpler steps by engaging the participants and the other tutors in lively discussions, always highlighting the positive aspects of the participants’ work; eliciting  the variety of ways of making the claims better, and the tutors were willing to answer questions from the participants even after the course was over. 

Overall, while remote learning has its own challenges, the third segment of the SEAD course was a success, judging by the happy smiles of the participants and their cheerful readiness to connect via LinkedIn. 

FICPI’s view and involvement

FICPI uniquely combines education and advocacy on topics around patents and trade marks with a dual focus on legal and professional excellence. We aim for high quality speakers and topics, during normal times often in-person, but during lockdown and social distancing we have been aiming to replicate that quality online, using webinars and other online sessions.

The SEAD course offers an excellent opportunity to take part in a unique high-level training on patent drafting, teaching the preparation of patent specifications and claims. Experienced practitioners from various jurisdictions around the world take part with delegates typically having between one and five years of experience in the IP profession. 

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