Seasons Greetings from Stratocumulus Legal
This year has gone so fast – where did it go?
Thank you again to those who have supported me this year, and especially to the clients who have entrusted me with their work.
A mini-milestone reached this year was Stratocumulus Legal marking its first birthday in the middle of this year. That means that I’m still going, and still juggling my solo practice while being flexible around the kids. It’s been a very busy year, with the juggle being a central feature.
Also, a few months back, Stratocumulus Legal started working from a shared office, Tank Stream Labs in Perth a few afternoons a week. My initial purpose was to find a place where I could concentrate during the afternoons that my 3 year old son was at home, but it’s also opened the door to a great network of start-ups and small businesses, all with their own interesting back stories. It’s nice to work alongside these other businesses, have a chat with the other members, and feel part of the community.
This Stratocumulus newsletter looks back on 2021 and gives an overview of what I’ve been up to this year. I hope you enjoy it.
Keeping in mind the changes and new ways in which many of us are now working, I published an article this year, “Do you actually own the IP created by your employees and contractors?”
Working remotely, working more flexibly, working on personal devices, greater use of contractors, increased automation. All these changes to how we work are picking up in pace, and these trends increasingly challenge business’ assumptions about the ownership of intellectual property created by their employees and contractors. Are you confident that your business actually owns its intellectual property?
Perth Machine Learning Group
I gave four presentations this year, all of which have been uploaded and, for better or worse, are now immortalised on YouTube. Two of these were facilitated by the Perth Machine Learning Group, in which I talked about the subsistence and ownership of intellectual property in the creations of artificial intelligence and machine learning processes, another important new legal issue emerging along with these new technologies.
Does anyone own IP rights in a robot’s creations?
In February, my first presentation explored whether any intellectual property rights subsist in output that was not created by a human. I concluded that the answer is probably not, until the ground-breaking Federal Court of Australia decision of Thaler v Commissioner of Patents was decided in late July. That case decided that an artificial intelligence system can be an inventor for the purposes of the Patents Act in Australia.
Robot as Inventor; Robot as Infringer
I was scheduled to present again in early July, about whether Ai can infringe someone else’s intellectual property, but a Perth lockdown postponed it until September, when I changed topics and re-visited my first topic in light of the intervening and important Thaler decision. I hope that I can get back to the infringement topic another time. Thank you to the PMLG for the opportunity to present, and to the audience for the curly and insightful questions.
Tank Stream Labs
My other two presentations were live streamed for Tank Stream Labs in October and November. I had a “Founder Stories” chat with Mira English about my start-up practice, discussing the fun juggle between intellectual property, being a start-up and parenting.
Member for Member Workshop – Identifying, Protecting and Harnessing Intellectual Property
I then gave a “Member for Member” Workshop to Tanks Stream Labs members about intellectual property for start-ups. A topic that good start-ups always tackle from the very beginning, my focus was encouraging start-ups to conduct an audit or review to identify the IP that they own and use, so that they are then equipped to harness and protect it.
Thank you to Tank Stream Labs.
The Red Robot
When I was preparing for my first presentation to the Perth Machine Learning Group at the beginning of the y ear, I was conscious that I was going to be talking with a clever group of people who are already very familiar with coding, programming and, well, building robots.
So not to be left out, I thought I’d better get into the robot building game as well. With my kids, we made the Red Robot from cardboard boxes and craft supplies. My robot is not artificial intelligence – it’s fully sentient when my kids squeeze inside. The Red Robot has become something of a mascot for my practice, so watch out for it next time!
Community & professional engagement
I’ve re-joined the Western Australian committee of the Intellectual Property Society of Australia & New Zealand (IPSANZ), and look forward to contributing to the profession here in Perth over the next year.
I have also continued my membership of the committee of the Australia-Japan Society of Western Australia (AJSWA), and likewise look forward to contributing to the Australia-Japan community in Perth.
Both organisations are looking to increase activity levels after a few quieter pandemic years, so it looks to be a busy year ahead.
Reflection – 30 year milestone
I am sometimes asked why Japan? The answer to that lies back in 1991, when I was a high school exchange student for a year. With this year being the 30th anniversary of that experience, 2021 has been something of a personal milestone, and I’ve been reflecting back on it.
There was no particular reason I chose Japan over other countries at the time, other than I had studied Japanese in early high school and enjoyed the subject.
As a gangly and unworldly 16 year old, I lived with a very generous volunteer host family (with whom I’m still in contact) in the suburbs of the ancient capital of Nara, attended a local high school, and wandered around World Heritage sites most afternoons after school.
At the time, I don’t think I had the personal insight to appreciate just how grateful I ought to have been for the experience. That insight came afterwards, but that foundation year led to a year at Chiba University (1996-1997), two years working in Tokyo (2008-2010), a now, a bilingual & bicultural family life. What a journey it’s been.
Looking back, I can only put it down to having grown up a lot that year, and Japan is the place where it happened. It turned out to be one of the most consequential years of my life, for all that flowed from it over the years since. Little did I know at the time, but to answer the question, that’s why Japan.
Some of my recent work
I’ve been very pleased to be able to work with new clients this year and do some interesting and rewarding work. Here are some examples of the type of work I’ve been doing.
- Cybersquatting & domain name dispute
- Advice around IP clauses and restraints in employment / contractor agreements
- Advising online businesses and preparing documents for online businesses such as website terms & conditions, IP & privacy policies
- Advising on intellectual property issues in the machine learning space
- Trade mark applications
I can also help with:
- IP Audits & Reviews
- IP Licensing – advice and reviews
- Trade mark applications and filing strategy
- Online copyright infringement and take-down notices
- Domain name disputes
- IP training for your staff
I’m available for general legal consulting, all the better if it has an intellectual property angle!
I am more than happy to complement or integrate with existing legal teams to advise on niche issues or scope (eg. intellectual property issues) arising within larger matters. Small or discrete jobs welcome.
More details of our services are here.
If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our posts and articles at our website.
If your organisation would like some IP training, or a presentation on current topics in IP, please get in contact.
I look forward to working with you in 2022!