How FICPI’s SEAD course adapted to online training

The FICPI Patent Drafting course

The FICPI Patent Drafting Course (South East Asian Edition), also referred to as the SEAD Course started in 1997 in Singapore in an effort to improve practical skills in IP protection.  Ultimately, the course aims to assist in training locals in south east Asia in patent drafting with the aim of building a knowledgeable and experienced group of practitioners in the region.  

The FICPI Patent Drafting Courses are unique in that these courses focus on hands-on drafting training, giving the participants direct experience with oversight from tutors from various countries around the world.  These tutors provide different perspectives, facilitating a focus on drafting for all jurisdictions.  

In addition to providing practical patent drafting training, the course provides opportunities to connect with others from within the host country and from all around the region.

Generally, the course is laid out in three segments including:

Segment 1 – one week intensive patent drafting training in a host country in Asia, including daily tutorials and hands-on workshops

Segment 2 – correspondence assignments assigned and marked by tutors

Segment 3 – a second week of intensive patent drafting training in the host country in Asia, including daily tutorials and hands-on workshops

Since 1997, hundreds of practitioners from the South East Asian region have completed the course, contributing to the experience, knowledge, and competence of the practitioners in the region.  Course participants have gained practical experience through the course and have been able to put the additional knowledge and experience to use in their practice.  Former participants have shared that their participation in the course has given them new perspectives on patent drafting and prosecution, and has made them better at what they do.  Many of these practitioners are now in senior positions within their firms and companies. 

The tutors

The course is led by experienced professionals from various countries around the world, bringing different perspectives to patent drafting.  The tutors on the most recent course included the course leader, Geoffrey de Kleine (Canada), along with David Carmichael (Australia), Dr Karl Rackette (Germany), Simon Roberts (United Kingdom), Scott Gordon (United States), and Dennis Drehkoff (United States).

The 2019/2020 Course

The 2019/2020 course started with the first segment in December 2019 in Metro Manila, Philippines, with the Hechanova Group providing valuable event management.  The second segment continued as planned until May 2020.  The final segment was originally planned for the Philippines in June 2020. 

The pandemic

As the dates for the final segment of the course approached, travel restrictions, restrictions on gathering, and even lockdowns were implemented as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.  It became clear that travel to Metro Manila and gathering for the course would not be possible for tutors and course participants alike.  As we gained a better understanding of the extent of the health crisis, it became clearer that it was unlikely that the course could be rescheduled for later in 2020.  

With the ongoing uncertainty, the decision was made to change the format of the course to a virtual or distance-learning course.  Maintaining the focus of a practical and hands-on course posed a challenge.  Providing lectures online can be somewhat straightforward.  Interactive working groups and plenary sessions online are entirely different. In addition, arranging such a course with participants and tutors across 10 different time zones posed a scheduling challenge.

Preparation for the new format

The tutors, in consultation with the course participants, agreed to run the course over a two week period, from 1 June, 2020 to 12 June 2020.  A new schedule including lectures, smaller workshop groups, and plenary sessions was devised, accounting for time zone differences.   

The tutors convened each Saturday for about two hours, beginning in early April 2020 in preparation for the remote learning version of the course.  The time was used to gain experience with the chosen online video conferencing platform and a word processor that allowed online real-time writing and editing by multiple people at the same time.  

Exercises to be used during the two weeks and lecture duties were identified and assigned to the tutors.

The final segment

The lectures and plenary sessions were completed through online video conferencing allowing simultaneous viewing of the speakers and the with slide presentations.  Workshop groups were conducted through video conferencing while using the online word processing.  This allowed the groups to discuss and collaborate using video conferencing to see and speak to each other while writing and editing documents that were viewable and editable by all. 

Although a few technical issues arose during the first lecture and first workshop groups, these issues were very quickly resolved and all ran relatively smoothly thereafter.  

Despite the unusual circumstances and changes to scheduling, all lectures, workshop groups, and plenary sessions saw 100% attendance by participants.

Conclusion

All participants completed the entire course successfully. 

Although we did not have the same social engagement such as lunches and dinners together that we normally have during the third segment of the course, completing the 2019/2020 course online was the right decision in face of great uncertainty.  The online version of the final segment gave the participants an opportunity to continue discussions and to continue to apply skills that from the first segment of the course.   

While we were unable to connect in person, we were able to connect online.  

Next steps

  • If you are interested in learning more about the FICPI Patent Drafting courses, or wish to participate in a future course, please visit https://ficpi.org/events-and-training/ficpi-training-courses/.
  • Look out for details of FICPI’s autumn webinars on the events page: https://ficpi.org/events-and-training 

How FICPI makes IP attorneys more effective

FICPI’s dual focus on legal and professional excellence is demonstrated through its training sessions, its Professional Excellence Committee, Training & Education Committee, and the Study & Work Committee and its eight sub-groups including CET 3 which focuses on International Patent Matters, CET 4 which focuses on European Patents, and CET 8 which focuses on Asian Issues.  

In-person training courses such as SEAD not only offer opportunities to learn but also to build connections with other independent IP attorneys around the world, through common interests and concerns.