Your expertise includes AI, which continues to develop at an exponential pace. How are working with your clients to help them prepare and take best advantage of this?
As a firm, we work closely with clients to anticipate how AI will impact their industry and business and ensure that they are positioned to take full advantage of the rapid developments in this space. My role encompasses advising them on patent strategy to protect their inventions on the front end, as well as on potential applications of AI to enhance their offerings on the back end. With AI advancing at an exponential pace through techniques like deep learning and neural networks, it is crucial for clients to obtain patent protection early in the development process so that they can maintain a competitive edge in the market. I support clients in identifying where and when to file patents as their AI capabilities evolve from conception to implementation. Our comprehensive approach helps clients accelerate their successes with AI while proactively managing risks.
Given the speed of change in the area in which you work, how do you stay abreast of all the latest developments in the tech space?
This is a constant challenge, but it is why I love my job! Staying current in tech requires a multifaceted approach. I make it a priority to read widely – blogs, journals and news sites. I also carve out time for self-directed learning through online courses and tutorials. However, the most valuable source of learning is the inventors whom I get to work with and learn from. Just as crucial is listening to clients – their challenges and goals are a valuable source of understanding about where tech is heading.
You have gone on the record saying that recruiting and retaining top-tier talent is a paramount aspect of fostering excellence. What does the firm’s approach to this look like?
At Schwegman, we believe that talent is what sets us apart. We take a personalised approach to recruiting, seeking people who are aligned with our values of excellence and integrity. Our attorneys have the flexibility to pursue work that they are passionate about. We aim to invest heavily in professional development and mentorship to nurture talent. Compensation and benefits are structured to retain our best people over the long term. But above all, we foster a warm, collaborative and intellectually stimulating culture that makes the firm an inspiring place to build a career.
What are the biggest challenges facing your clients at present, and how are you helping them to overcome these?
With patent-eligibility standards continuing to evolve, we work closely with clients to draft high-quality patent applications that can withstand the latest tests. We also counsel them on building strategic patent portfolios that align with business goals and technology roadmaps. Our attorneys stay continually up to date on the latest case law and USPTO guidance around patentability standards so that we can provide actionable advice to clients. When patent disputes do arise, we leverage our prosecution expertise to efficiently resolve matters before litigation is required.
Looking ahead, we are focused on equipping clients to handle new patent challenges brought by emerging technologies like AI, extended reality and robotics. With our deep knowledge and experience in patent law, we aim to give clients the clarity they need to make decisions and confidently grow their companies in a complex IP landscape. Our firm views patent expertise as a key strategic asset, and we invest heavily in developing attorneys' capabilities so that we can deliver the highest calibre counsel to clients.
How do you anticipate that the augmented reality (AR) space will evolve in the next five years?
AR has enormous potential that has only just started to be explored. In the next few years, I expect AR to meaningfully penetrate sectors like manufacturing, healthcare, retail and education. Lightweight, stylish smart glasses will start to supplement smartphones. Tracking and mapping capabilities will improve dramatically, enabled by 5G and new sensors. Cloud computing will allow complex AR experiences on ubiquitous devices. Of course, there will be major innovations that we cannot yet envision! It is an exciting time and I look forward to helping clients capitalise on AR's possibilities.
Principal at Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner Andre Marais is a registered patent attorney, whose practice focuses on strategic IP counselling and patent prosecution, patent validity, infringement and clearance analysis and IP due diligence, particularly in networking, software, communications and electrical/electronic technologies. Mr Marais is passionate about building and managing patent portfolios with clients, and having worked with several prominent Silicon Valley companies since their beginnings, he brings an ‘in-the-trenches’ perspective to portfolio strategy and growth.