Can you share your top tips for keeping clients’ patent strategies current, especially given the speed of global events the past few years?
Patent strategies are all about reducing risk, so risk identification, mitigation and management is critical. Risk is not static; it depends on companies’ aims and objectives, as well as those of their competitors. While drawing up a patent strategy early is key, one should review said strategy regularly to confirm its alignment and integration with the overall business strategy. It is more important than ever to make time to devise processes and policies to facilitate this and encourage close working relationships between businesses and their IP providers, given the acceleration of technological innovations. Further, in the biotech space (particularly advanced therapeutic medicinal products and biology 2.0 sectors), the increasing complexity of technologies and resulting webs of collaborations also require careful navigation.
What has been your biggest professional challenge to date – and how did you overcome it?
Every seasoned patent attorney has war stories about monumental workloads and impossible deadlines. For me, the most intellectually rewarding challenge is being able to support my clients in achieving their commercial goals as both the complexity of technology and speed of innovation increase. While the exact approach will invariably be client-specific, there are some common threads. It is imperative to take time to understand a client’s technology and the commercial context in which their business sits. This involves staying abreast of key advances in the space and the organisations working in it, as well as third-party and competitor collaborations. Associated with this is the challenge of helping my clients understand the importance of a holistic approach to intellectual property and helping them achieve this while managing bandwidth and budgets. Proactive, honest and open communication is the key, so that objectives can be set and parameters determined.
You have won acclaim for your “commercially savvy” approach – how have attitudes to IP monetisation shifted throughout the course of your career?
Universities, other public sector technology transfer offices and my SME clients have seen the biggest changes. The former have become more experienced in identifying innovation with commercial potential, and are much more sophisticated in how they develop strategies and package intellectual property around that innovation, whether that is by collaborating with an industrial partner or capturing a robust portfolio for spinout. Successful SMEs understand the vital role intellectual property plays in securing funding and establishing their market position, so they are now more likely to engage with it and budget for a filing strategy early in their company development, which is wonderful to see!
If you could change one thing about how freedom to operate (FTO) is handled in Europe, what would it be and do you think it is likely to happen?
FTO is challenging, particularly in complex sectors such as advanced therapy medicinal products. In the last five years, one of the biggest issues in FTO analysis in the United Kingdom has been the introduction of a doctrine of equivalents into patent infringement, which has made it more difficult to assess whether an activity would be held to infringe the scope of a patent claim. Although there has been some case law from UK courts since the doctrine was introduced, further guidance from these courts would help with FTO assessment. Other challenges include disparities in law/practice in different jurisdictions. While the introduction of the unitary patent system and UPC may ultimately reduce practice divergence, given the critical value of patents to businesses in the biotech and pharma space, the consensus seems to be in favour of opting out until the system has become embedded. Change from an FTO perspective (if any), therefore, may be some years away.
What does inspiring leadership look like to you?
Inspirational leaders are value-driven. They have a keen sense of responsibility for their actions and behaviour but also those of their team. They understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and do not shy away from feedback, but instead seek out opportunities to grow and improve. In a similar vein, they nurture and support their team’s growth and development, and are motivated by their team’s success. Inspiring leaders strive to be inclusive, treating everyone with dignity and respect, allowing individuals to bring their authentic selves to work.
The “commercially savvy” Anna Gregson works in Mathys & Squire’s life sciences team, with formidable expertise in the biotech field. She is recommended in the latest IAM Patent 1000, IAM Strategy 300 and The Legal 500. Dr Gregson specialises in devising comprehensive, multilayered protection around her clients’ innovations, as well as freedom to operate advice. She has experience in a range of subject matter including therapeutic antibodies, plant biotechnology, advanced therapy and stem cells.