You have been entrusted with patent work by companies at the top of their industry. What are the crucial skills for a top-level IP professional to hone?
I am certain that the answer as to why they have entrusted me and my team is subjective and my clients are probably best placed to respond.
In my personal view, the crucial skills for top-level IP professionals to hone are:
- understanding clients’ business goals and needs;
- demonstrating sound legal and technical knowledge; and
- establishing strong relationships and trust with clients.
Some people say that technical skills are essential. While I agree that top-level IP professionals should have sharp technical skills, I would actually argue that legal skills are more important. This is especially true in patent litigation, where a comprehensive knowledge of procedural law is crucial. To succeed as an IP professional, you must also keep up to speed with how case law in the patent field develops – not only in your own jurisdiction and at the EPO, but also in other key jurisdictions where your clients operate.
Which of the cases that you have worked on are you most proud of – and why?
There have been quite a few cases that I am proud of. On behalf of our team at Ström & Gulliksson and our sister firm Advokatbyrån Gulliksson, I am probably most proud of our work on the court cases PMT 11578-16, PMT 2300-17 and PMT 11995-17 for Japanese company Seiko Epson. I was the lead European patent attorney and it was a privilege to represent an esteemed company like Seiko Epson as it sought several infringement findings in Sweden in order to achieve its overall global business goals. The court cases settled in 2019 and, at the time of the dispute, arguably represented one of the biggest patent disputes in the country. The complexity of the cases, from both a technical and a legal perspective, the commercial importance of the cases and the fact that the opposing counsel was known as one of the best patent litigation teams in Sweden at the time made it a high-profile case. It was extremely rewarding and satisfying to work together in a team with some of the best patent lawyers in Sweden and with talented Seiko Epson professionals to develop and implement our patent litigation strategy.
What are the key characteristics of an excellent IP strategy?
The single most important component of an excellent IP strategy is to align the IP strategy, management and decision making with the general corporate strategy. This should come as no surprise! In my view, the goals of any IP strategy should be:
- to help drive profits and expand revenue opportunities;
- to minimise legal risks and dependencies towards third parties;
- to position the company as a unique provider through a portfolio of enforceable IP rights;
- to maximise the company’s return on investment to its shareholders; and
- to foster an increased valuation in view of the company’s financing and/or exit strategy.
In other words, the goals of an IP strategy are to maximise assets and minimise liabilities.
How do you manage expectations and maintain close working relationships with clients when the stakes are so high?
I try to live by the following principles:
- Focus on timely and efficient communication.
- Maintain a positive attitude.
- Acknowledge my clients as individuals.
- Share knowledge.
- Be open about my opinions.
- Exceed expectations.
What changes would you like to see made to the Swedish patent landscape – and how likely do you think they are to take place?
Sweden is an innovative country. However, some companies still do not seem to understand the importance of receiving patent advice from European or authorised patent attorneys. Therefore, valuable intangible assets can be put at risk. I would welcome a debate on how to raise awareness among tech-intensive companies regarding this and perhaps improve the national authorisation of patent attorneys to a similar level as the European counterpart regarding the right to represent clients before the relevant authorities. While I know that the Swedish Intellectual Property Office is trying to raise awareness on this, I think that it is unlikely the national authorisation will be changed any time soon.
Christian Arkelius is a partner heading the Stockholm office of Ström & Gulliksson. He has been recognised and recommended by various independent ranking institutes for his exceptional skills in strategic IP counselling and contentious matters. In addition, he is highly appreciated by clients for his ability to combine his profound knowledge in technology, law and business. His tactical mindset and excellent people skills provide a significant advantage in client patent cases.