8 Jan

Elisabeth Opie

You have received numerous awards and recognition, including a Business Award and a Strategy Excellence Award. What has been the key to your success?

I am fortunate to have worked with some of the best and brightest, who took the time to mentor me as I explored new aspects of professional life. I have also been privileged to have been able to complement this fundamental part of my professional development by participating in foundational leadership programmes. In terms of the experience I have gathered, this has been across multiple sectors – such as aerospace, automotive, information and communications technology, energy and health. Being able to work with multinationals and start-ups in these areas has enabled me to appreciate different considerations to be taken into account for a range of transactions in different operating environments and with different point-in-time strategic objectives. Regarding any award, it is all about working with others. On a personal level, the thread that binds a group of people working together is often made of the basics: openness, trust, respect, teamwork and fun. I take time to focus on people – as well as processes and company objectives – to achieve the desired goal.

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, as I am naturally inclined to find solutions rather than see something as an obstacle. At most, an ‘obstacle’ is something to take into consideration in the grand scheme of things. In this regard, I believe that maintaining an open mind to hearing different perspectives is important, as is adhering to certain foundational elements of strategy and decision making. I am reminded of a saying that I came across in my late teens: the only limitation is your imagination.

Some key learnings for me during my career have been that making the decision of go/no go is crucial, and that change is opportunity. Having worked with technology my entire career, I have also found it important to focus on the commonalities that exist across professional disciplines. At a glance, for example, science and law may appear diametric – science often progressing at light speed, forever seeking to innovate, to create, by its nature engaging with risk and the unknown, while the law is often portrayed as being quite conservative, often said to be too slow to change with the times. However, both seek to promote those things that are valuable to society and both rely on well-established, age-old principles and rules in the pursuit of progress. To borrow a thought from Nelson Mandela, it can always seem impossible until it is done. Commonalities resonate.

How have client demands changed over the past five years and what impact is this having on your practice?

The legal market has been changing over a period of time, which I have experienced as both a client and as a service provider. Changes go further than fee arrangements. In order to deliver more value to the service user, the roles and responsibilities of both clients and lawyers are being refined to make the internal/external matter management process transparent, more efficient and seamless. Right now, adaptability and tailored responsiveness to client needs has been a key focus for our practice management. Our vision is to be a great law firm for the technology-centric.

How do you measure the success of an IP strategy?

There are a number of elements that make up an IP strategy and there are various key performance indicators (KPIs) associated with each of these. Some of the more common KPIs include number of patents, collaboration, publications, IP transfer, return on investment and delivery of future science programmes. For my clients, my focus is to assist with achieving a return on investment as part of an innovation cycle or ecosystem – our client’s success means our success.

Looking ahead, how do you expect the German patent landscape to develop in the next five years?

This year, Germany placed first as the most innovative nation in the Bloomberg Innovation Index. High value is still given to patents, as a source of competitive advantage and also because they remain an efficient means of being able to protect this form of IP asset compared to some other jurisdictions. Should there be a reduced ability to protect these time-limited assets, there could be a shift to other forms of IP protection. At the very least, changes in patent-filing strategies seem likely.

Elisabeth Opie

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Elisabeth Opie opened a law office in Munich, Germany in 2014, having 20 years’ international experience with innovation ecosystems. She specialises in dealing with international technology from various sectors, with practice areas including international trade law, technology transfer and commericalisation, competition law and dispute resolution. Audio technology is a particular focus. Ms Opie is registered with the Munich Bar Association, a practising solicitor in Australia and England and Wales, and qualified in Ireland.

Click here to see her IAM 300 2020 profile.