Can you tell us about some of the biggest obstacles you have faced in your professional life – and how you have overcome them?
This is a tricky question to answer. I remember that when I started my career at Plougmann Vingtoft, I worried about whether I would focus too much on what cannot be patented rather than what can, due to my background as an examiner. However, I worked a great deal on this and forced myself to see the possibilities in every invention. Today, I think that this particular skill is one of my key strengths.
How have client demands changed over the course of your career, and how has your practice adapted to this?
Over the years, I have observed that Danish companies within the area of food science and food technology have become more focused on protecting their technology than was previously the case. Client demands have also shifted from a focus on obtaining patent rights to a growing appreciation of the commercial aspects of these rights. For example, my counselling is now increasingly concerned with creating patent rights that generate value for my clients’ businesses. In my practice, freedom-to-operate analyses, monitoring competitor rights and hence guiding companies in how to navigate through competitors’ patent rights have become everyday work.
What are the most common mistakes that non-European companies tend to make before the EPO?
My experience is that European patent applications filed by non-European companies often get into trouble when it comes to introducing claim amendments (ie, the EPO’s added subject-matter requirements). The EPO is very strict with regard to the interpretation of added subject matter. For example, a claim amendment based on information from the examples of the application will most often be considered as an intermediate generalisation and therefore not allowed. I have seen several patent applications from non-European companies where the detailed description is not particularly long and therefore only allows for very few claim amendments. This may lead to problems if it becomes necessary to introduce claim amendments.
How would you characterise the food, agriculture and chemistry space patent landscape at present?
In the area of food and agriculture, I have observed an increasing growth in exploiting waste products from existing process lines for making other and new food products. In addition, food companies continue their research into replacing additives with natural ingredients and hence preparing more clean-label products.
What can Denmark learn from other key jurisdictions to create a more globally competitive patent system?
From my point of view, the Danish Patent and Trademark Office already has a competitive patent system. Danish patent law is aligned with the European Patent Convention and the differences are very few. However, Denmark is a small country and patent protection in Denmark is, therefore, most often obtained through a European patent.
Partner [email protected]
Katja Sørensen is a partner and European patent attorney at Plougmann Vingtoft. She studied chemistry and food science at the Technical University of Denmark and worked as an examiner at the Danish Patent and Trademark Office before joining the firm in 2006. She counsels mainly within the areas of chemistry, biotechnology, food science, ingredients and technology. Ms Sørensen is a member of the standing advisory committee before the EPO, sub-group patent documentation and information (SACEPO/PDI).
Click here to see her IAM Patent 1000 2021 profile.