What has been your biggest professional challenge to date – and how did you overcome it?
A few years ago, I was assisting a colleague in oral proceedings before the examining division of the EPO. Shortly thereafter, national infringement/validity proceedings were pending and several oppositions were filed, both at the EPO and in other countries. The workload increased significantly and there was no room for error. This challenge was solved by involving more people, streamlining our team’s processes and agreeing on communication strategies and areas of responsibility.
How are developments in AI and machine learning shaping the European IP ecosystem?
Developments in machine learning are improving the quality of machine translations significantly, which may result in an increased number of prior art references being identified during searches. Further, the costs for translating patent application documents into requested languages remains a significant burden on our clients. This may very well change in the future.
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?
Even though the legal service landscape is competitive, providing honest advice to create value for my clients still presents a significant competitive advantage. It is also essential to understand the needs of my clients and their respective business environments to provide the best possible advice. Those factors may change rapidly, so maintaining close contact with clients is key.
Given that you spent four years as a patent examiner in the Norwegian Patent Office, can you tell us what the most important nuances are for international rights holders to be aware of before prosecuting patents in Norway?
After Norway became a European Patent Convention (EPC) member state in 2008, national rights could be obtained either by validating a European patent in Norway or by following the national route. The EPO handles oppositions filed against a European patent and decisions issued by it are effective in all designated states. In contrast, oppositions filed against a Norwegian patent will be handled by the Norwegian Patent Office and appeal procedures will be handled by Norwegian courts. Even though Norwegian practice is harmonised with the EPC, Norwegian courts tend to be less formalistic than the EPO, which may favour the patentee.
How do you anticipate that the covid IP waiver might hit the life sciences scene?
The covid pandemic has held the world in its grip for several years, resulting in an urgent need for the rapid development and approval of vaccines. The patent system has served as an important incentive for companies to invest time, effort and money in developing new technologies. If no such incentives existed, the industry might have refrained from investing money into R&D, possibly resulting in a lack of new vaccines. However, patents on vaccines also represent a significant barrier for developing countries that needs to be rectified, and the covid IP waiver is a step in the right direction.
At present, vaccine manufacturing and R&D is concentrated in a small group of high-income countries. In the case of a pandemic, the risk therefore arises that countries without manufacturing facilities, particularly low-income countries, will not get access to lifesaving vaccines. The covid IP waiver is unlikely to have a dramatic effect on the life sciences scene with its current wording, but it may very well be that we will see an increase in manufacturing facilities around the world, helping everyone to be more prepared for a future pandemic.
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Kim Livgard is a European patent attorney with over 20 years’ experience in the life sciences/pharmaceutical sector, including five years as an examiner in the Norwegian Industrial Property Office. His opinion and counselling practice includes infringement, validity, freedom-to-operate advice and patent term extension. Mr Livgard is experienced in dealing with infringement allegations, providing design-around advice and risk analysis. In the field of patents, he handles the preparation, prosecution, opposition and appeal of Norwegian and European patents.