What led you to pursue a career in intellectual property – and what advice do you have for anyone considering a similar path?
I wanted to work in intellectual property due to the unique mixture of technical issues and complex legal problems underlying professional life in this field, with language skills also playing a major role. A career in intellectual property will be fulfilling only if all three aspects are enjoyed in daily work. It is also necessary to enjoy becoming acquainted with new, emerging technologies and to familiarise oneself with new areas of law that must be applied in the context of those technologies.
Has your experience working in the rapidly evolving science and technology space taught you any lessons about how to prepare your own practice for the future?
Due to the accelerated development of science and technology, more and more interdisciplinary issues will have to be dealt with, with different areas of law coming together. For example, in the case of industrial products that can receive, process and transmit data, problems relating to patent law will be supplemented by other areas of law concerning, for example, data rights. Thus, for an IP practice to be successful in the future, it will be crucial to acquire knowledge and experience in legal areas outside of traditional intellectual property related to fast-developing modern technologies, such as Big Data and IoT. Major aspects of such emerging technologies are not covered by the fields of technology for which patents can be granted. Instead, data law and other aspects of IT law will become increasingly relevant, meaning that attorneys working in IP law will have to constantly broaden their legal expertise, as well as their knowledge regarding science and technology.
The current legal services landscape is competitive, and high-quality legal work is considered a minimum. How do you add value for clients in such an environment?
The team dedicated to a client’s matter must consistently provide legal advice of the highest quality, without exception. When assembling a team, no compromises must be made in terms of the ability of members to perform tasks at the highest level. This also means that hiring talent is essential in developing successful teams.
You have an academic background in physics and have worked in highly technical fields, such as automotive engineering. What are your key recommendations for conveying highly technical concepts so as to get buy-in from non-experts?
On the one hand, it is crucial to have a precise understanding of underlying technical facts and relevant legal problems. On the other, it is necessary to work meticulously on the linguistic presentation of complex technical issues in a legal context in order to achieve the best possible outcome. With time, the most important steps get into one’s blood, so that work becomes increasingly effective and successful. Finally, regular participation in contentious procedures, such as infringement, nullity and opposition proceedings, will provide the opportunity to elaborate on those skills.
As we hopefully emerge from the pandemic, what changes to the industry and/or working practices do you think are here to stay?
One change that will remain is the widespread use of videoconferencing (eg, for meetings, lectures and court hearings), supplemented by face-to-face meetings where necessary or to deepen relationships. Another beneficial change that will remain, in view of the increasingly digitalised working environment, is remote working. This requires a new mindset in operating a law firm and, in particular, in establishing and maintaining a team spirit across the firm.
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Dr Gunnar Baumgärtel has been a partner at Maikowski & Ninnemann since 1999. He specialises in patent litigation and prosecution, and has vast experience in handling patent infringement cases before the district and appeal courts, as well as nullity cases before the Federal Patent Court. Dr Baumgärtel played a key role in achieving a fundamental decision issued by Germany’s Federal Court of Justice concerning the admissibility of post-grant amendments to claims. He has also been appointed as an arbitrator in various international arbitration proceedings.