April 15, 2019
The most interesting part of European Patent Attorney Joonas Kilpivaara’s job is working with startups. He became acquainted with the IP sector with a unique deep dive and with the background of an engineer.
”I wrote 80 hand-written pages on the subject”
When I started in the IP sector, I immediately wanted to be a European Patent Attorney, and I decided to complete the European Patent Attorney degree. The three-day exam is organised once a year. I read whenever I had time over, and once I had worked in the sector for two years, I was allowed to take the pre-exam. After that, I was allowed to complete the final exam. It has four separate modules that are normally completed during several years. I was under 30 years old, and I had the background of an engineer, but I had never done such a demanding exam. I wrote 80 hand-written sheets of paper of answers. I completed all the exam sections at once, and it was quite a relief when I passed all of them at once.
”Software patenting at a turning point”
This field has given me nice surprises and even now, after five years of work experience, I still have new things to learn. I am encouraged by our working community where we share things with each other and no one is left alone with their problems. Here in Kolster’s Oulu unit, customers are mainly from the technology and telecommunications sectors. That’s fine with me, as once I graduated from university, I participated in creating various software for companies as a software engineer and consultant. Right now, software patenting is at a turning point where it’s really hard to predict its future. Even though the European Patent Office (EPO) gave new software patenting guidelines recently, ambiguity is still a problem. There are more and more software inventions made and the threat is that their patent rights are applied for in the United States where software patents are more tolerated again. Europe should fix the issue soon as this might be a determining question for the entire IP sector.
“Research is like peeling an onion”
I also work with a few startups. Generally, technology sector startups have one lead product that they use to start conquering the markets. The other alternative is that there are many ideas, but the actual patentable invention is hard to find. In this case, my task is to spar and to find some concreteness behind the ideas with my own knowledge of technology. This way, we will together find the thing that can be patented. Sometimes someone might submit an application and just attach many inventions around the same topic. This might be important for a company’s financing, even if it’s not certain that the patent will be granted. Many financers require at the least a pending patent application before financing can be granted. These types of situations are extremely challenging when writing the patent application, as you need a significant amount of understanding of technology in addition to patent expertise. It’s like peeling an onion layer by layer until you get deep enough, yet not too far, as resources are always limited.
“Expertise is summarised in a one-page text”
I did my master’s thesis on the calculation of the benefits of software investments. I am more of a business person at heart rather than a programmer. These areas come together well in IP work.
My work is 90 per cent writing and thinking. Wordings in patent applications and responses to Office Actions must be formulated carefully. It’s perfectly normal that in three days, I can produce dozens of pages of text in English. However, the core of my expertise lies in the ability to summarise and to write one page of efficient text. This can be the deciding factor in the acceptance of a patent or a response to an Office Action. My work has many routines and determined research. It requires precision and the ability to see things through. I have to carry the responsibility for the entire business of a company and to live with various deadlines. Many deadlines are so sacred in this sector that there is no room for extensions.
“Software will remain as second-class inventions even in the future”
I have lived most of my life in an information society and I work in a sector that is traditionally seen as quite conservative. The field’s future outlook is good if the problems in software patenting can be corrected. As virtual and artificial intelligence solutions become more common, the entire definition of an inventor may be at stake when a machine can do the same kind of thinking as a person. Legislators must react to this in some way. I am worried that there will be no essential changes in software inventions in the future, unless the number of submitted patent applications decreases radically. However, it seems pretty certain that software will continue to be treated as second-class inventions—accompanied with only minor improvements and fixes. Our customers will have to endure uncertainty even in the future, but, on the other hand, there will be a demand for patent experts.
“Forest empties the mind in a good way”
To keep work and the rest of my life balanced, I like to go to the woods during my time off to relax and calm down. I know the many sides of forests: climbing, hiking, hunting, fishing, forestry, picking mushrooms and berries and collecting cones. My newest hobby is bird-watching. It is easy to challenge myself so well in the rugged forests up north that I completely forget about work.