You have nearly 30 years of IP experience and have handled more than 4,000 patent applications – what keeps you in the game?
It may sound twee, but I just really enjoy getting good results for clients. It does not matter whether it is a big opposition with multiple opponents and several long days of high-intensity hearings on my feet running on adrenaline, or getting a tricky patent over the line for a small client. It makes me pleased to see a client recognise that the outcome was good and possibly a little better than it would have been had I not been there. So much of the practice of law is dominated by process and churning through things with little regard to the outcome or purpose, the billing along the way being the primary metric of what matters – so it is satisfying to approach it differently.
You have a background in science and engineering, how do you stay on top of the latest technological developments?
Call me nerdy but I am simply interested in technology – I am probably a frustrated engineer at heart. I lack the time to read at random these days but snippets are a wonderful thing. I enjoy chewing over with clients how we might design around their patent in advance and what might be of value in 20 years. One of my clients joked that they did not merely come to me for IP advice, but for technical consultancy. If I ever talk to a client about IP strategy and I cannot envisage technically where the project is going and contribute to the direction of the intellectual property, then I am not giving them the service they need.
As founder of your firm, do you give any directives to your team on how to maintain client relationships and/or add value for clients?
Absolutely! One of the great joys of having my own firm is that I can direct culture in the way I think it should be. I firmly believe clients should enjoy working with us, know that we are genuinely on their side and that our priority and focus is on solving their problems. Some firms give the impression that clients are an inconvenience they have to deal with in order to send a bill. As it happens, over lunch today with some colleagues we were discussing precisely this subject and they said they enjoyed feeling part of a team whose goal is to make all our clients happy.
What are some of the biggest challenges that your clients face in the field of engineering in particular?
My observation is that it is rarely one big challenge but lots of little ones. Particularly when innovating, things rarely go completely to plan and small issues can turn into greater problems to solve. Often, a brilliant high-level concept gets dogged in minor issues to turn it into a robust production-ready reality. Supply chain issues have been an annoyance and rising energy costs and commodity shortages (including semiconductor fab capacity limitations) are not helping, but this is all part of doing business. In the IP field, where innovation is now usually mixed hardware and software, some patent offices can take an unhelpful approach to assessing inventive step.
As we hopefully emerge from the pandemic, what changes to the industry and/or working practices do you think are here to stay?
I think it is unlikely that we will return to working five days in the office. Ostentatious offices have become an unhelpful indulgence. Smart clients have now seen, rather than merely suspected, that it is perfectly possible for talented professionals or small teams to do a first-class job while working without marble or glass surroundings. They rightly question why they should pay a substantial premium for packaging beyond a functional office. Rising energy costs will only exacerbate the issue of vanity space. In another move away from historical trappings, I personally have not worn a suit, aside from for formal hearings, for a couple of years. In general, covid has shifted focus to substance rather than form. I have seen several smaller firms starting or growing with respected individuals from legacy organisations, all sharing focus on doing things efficiently and enjoying not having to keep a second team occupied to keep the rent paid and the lights on.
Founder and CEO [email protected]
Ilya Kazi founded IK-IP Ltd in 2021 after 29 years’ experience in private practice, the majority as a senior partner. He has an MSci in natural sciences from the University of Cambridge and is a European and UK patent attorney and qualified litigator. Mr Kazi has extensive experience ranging from start-ups to multinationals, and from filing and strategy through portfolio management to opposition and litigation across a wide range of technologies.