Only recently formed, a once ambitious competitor is to be absorbed by the CPA Global organisation, which surely already holds an overwhelmingly dominant position in the unregulated IP services sector. This merger, hard on the heels of the acquisition of Clarivate, will allow CPA Global access to enormous amounts of client data and numerous new clients, some of whom will have moved away from CPA Global only to find themselves right back where they started.
Deposition of former employee opposed by CPA Global
In June this year, lawyers representing Polymer Solutions International, Inc filed an application with the US District Court of Maryland seeking to depose a former CPA Global employee in relation to claims of unauthorised charging for renewals payment services to be brought in the Island of Jersey, where CPA Global has its headquarters. The order was granted and CPA Global promptly intervened seeking to quash the order. If you have access to PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) you can search using the case number 8:18-cv-01864-DKC.
US law allows for discovery orders to be made in relation to proceedings to be brought outside the US under what is called a ‘Section 1782’ procedure. This is not the first time a procedure has been instigated to obtain evidence from former CPA Global employees. In the US class action against CPA Global (see my earlier posts), also pursuing claims of unauthorised charging, an application was filed on 19 January 2017 seeking assistance from the English Courts in obtaining testimony from nine former CPA employees. This application was not pursued further as the case was settled the following month.
Stop the tide
CPA Global is throwing everything it has at the present 1782 process and doing its utmost to prevent evidence being taken from its former employee. There is plenty of fun to be had for the lawyers and countless hours will be spent arguing what are doubtless very interesting points of law. The arguments advanced by CPA Global include assertions that the former employee doesn’t have any relevant knowledge; and yet it is doing all it can to prevent him being deposed. Is it unfair to speculate that CPA Global doesn’t want any of its former employees giving evidence for fear of what they will say?
Set for another fall?
CPA Global has, one imagines, deep pockets and so can afford to throw money at stopping this discovery. It did the same when it tried to stop the Kobre & Kim law firm from using the domain https://cpaglobal-litigation.com, though that didn’t turn out well (see my post). The present proceedings could go to appeal and I suspect CPA Global will keep up the fight for as long as process allows.
Business as usual
Meanwhile, CPA Global continues to charge fees for renewal payment services that are, based on comparative data I have seen, vastly more than any of its major competitors; including applying foreign exchange mark-ups to Official Fees that are commonly between 20% and 50%! With its patent renewals business reported to be 70% of CPA Global’s revenues, and with reported debt funding of £1.7bn to support, it can hardly afford to reduce charges.
If you are using CPA Global to pay your renewals, then I strongly recommend you ask to see its tariff of charges. What you will then also see, unless you have been made an exception, is that it also charges ‘Country Fees’ that, unlike any other competitor I know of, increase with each annuity year. It is time that CPA Global clients woke up to the reality of its charging practices.
Hope and trust are similar human traits that, in similar ways, serve to bolster our confidence that things will turn out well. Trust is more specific than hope and is commonly invested in a person or organisation. Trust implies an expectation of a particular outcome, or specific behaviour, for which another is held responsible.
I once spent an hour with Larry Light, at the time a brand consultant to Ford Motor Company and many others, and remember him speaking of the qualities of a strong brand and what he called ‘one think shopping’. His message was that trust in a brand could be enough to drive the customer’s choice.
Trust is useful as it allows us to reduce the effort we would otherwise spend on making sure that something gets done. Instead, we have an expectation and expect it to be met. If it is not, our trust is either modified - perhaps by introducing new conditions - or withdrawn.
In the world of professional services, the quality and longevity of relationships are greatly impacted by expectations and levels of trust established. For many, going to a lawyer is much like visiting a dentist: you trust in the person’s qualifications; the setting and equipment; and that you will be charged fairly for the work done. Once you have your mouth open and are being told more work is needed, you may have little choice but to mumble agreement.
There are so many demands on our time and to have to check that we are being charged correctly is a boring task we would prefer not to do. We are advised to check our utility bills, bank statements and restaurant bills. How many of us don’t bother and end up paying the price?
Don’t rely on trust
My firm recently launched a tool that verifies invoices for IP renewals. It addresses the information asymmetry that exists between customer and supplier, including the difficulty of identifying correct Official Fees for each country.
Many responses to marketing messages have essentially said: ‘We are happy with our current supplier’ or ‘Adding verification to our process would involve extra work’. One person confirmed that her role was to authorise payment and that doing so was based entirely on trust; which surely made her role redundant.
Though understandable at a human level, it is surprising how many organisations simply don’t bother to check invoices. Remedies for breach of contract are literally of no consequence when there is no process for establishing whether there has been a breach. As Larry Light identified, the trust that people put in brands prevents them from carrying out basic checks that the organisation is playing fair. Even when we have trust in an organisation, it’s always best to ensure they are doing what they say they will. Surely good governance includes checking your bills, doesn’t it?