What made you choose a career in intellectual property?
I became a patent attorney because I wanted a career that fully utilised the technical and scientific skills that I had spent seven years developing at university. During my time at university, I had a few summer jobs in research laboratories which – although I enjoyed – showed me that this industry was not for me. I was fortunate enough to be involved in the process of reviewing patent literature during my PhD and was instantly attracted to both using my technical skills and learning about a whole new area of patent law in order to protect scientific inventions.
What is the key skill set that a top-quality patent attorney needs to possess?
Top-quality patent attorneys will be working at the cutting-edge of technology and therefore must have a deep understanding of the scientific and technical principles in the areas in which they work. Excellent written and oral communication skills are also a requirement. In oral proceedings before the EPO, patent attorneys must be able to persuade a board of examiners to grant the required protection to their clients. In contentious matters, highly skilled advocacy can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing. As patent attorneys interact with clients on a day-to-day basis, communication skills are also essential. Finally, the ability to explain complex technical ideas clearly and concisely is vital.
What does a high-quality patent look like?
High-quality patents should have a concise set of claims providing the broadest possible coverage in the required jurisdiction. Where possible, the claims should not be overly long and should be as general as possible. The patent must be able to stand on its own, so it should be completely self-evident as to what the invention is. Therefore, the patent should be written clearly and concisely in order to be easily understood. Where necessary, the main features of the invention should be clearly illustrated in a range of figures making it abundantly clear what the important features of the invention are.
In which technologies are you seeing the most growth in patent interest currently?
Many areas are experiencing increased patent filings. In my own practice I have seen an increase in filings in the medical imaging and medical device areas. Not only have the actual patent filings increased, but this area also remains highly contentious and a wide range of litigation and European oppositions are occurring.
I have also seen an increase in the range of chemical applications relating to rubber polymers and applications regarding co-polymers and the use of these polymers in, for example, medical and electrical products.
Moreover, I have observed an increase in textile filings not only for apparel and footwear products, but also for use as membranes (eg, for rechargeable batteries in the automotive industry).
What single development would most improve the patent protection regime in the United Kingdom and Europe?
Although they have been a long time coming, the unitary patent and the UPC – when they come into existence – will supplement and strengthen the unitary patent granting system that already exists before the EPO. The UPC and the unitary patent should make it easier and faster to conduct litigation across many European countries and obtain injunctions where necessary. The process will significantly reduce translation costs and provide a simplified renewal fees system. Over time, the system will hopefully provide more certainty to clients compared with the current system, where different European jurisdictions can decide the same case in different ways.
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Gary Wilson is a partner and non-executive board member at HGF. He is a qualified UK and European patent attorney. He graduated from the University of Glasgow with a first-class honours degree and a PhD in chemistry. Dr Wilson also studied IP law at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London. His areas of expertise include the chemical, medical device, pharmaceutical and mechanical fields. He also has extensive experience in European oppositions and appeals.