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A patent attorney’s most important tool is the ability to listen


September 20, 2019

European Patent Attorney Kati Vesterinen gets excited by good inventions. An IPR professional must listen to the customer carefully and know how to describe their idea in writing so that the created patent can handle even the toughest scrutiny.

I ended up in the IPR industry, even though I did not know anything about the job of a patent attorney or even patents, as a matter of fact. In the beginning of my career, I saw that Nokia had an opening for a patent engineer. I did not have thorough experience of intellectual property rights from before, apart from a recruitment event during my studies where the European Patent Office (EPO) talked to us about the job opportunities that they offer. Even after the event, I mainly remembered that EPO has an office in München, and “that’s where they organise Oktoberfest”. However, I was intrigued and decided to give the industry a try. And that’s where I still am.

I graduated with a Master of Science in Engineering, which has been a big help in the patenting world. I have worked for a long time with intellectual property rights that relate specifically to user interfaces. Typically, engineering work focuses on technical characteristics, but my own favourites include inventions that make devices easy to use.User experience must be good in order to engage people such that they use a device again. The key is ease of use, and inventions related to usability are extremely important, especially when you consider that patent infringements are generally quite easy to detect in user interfaces.

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“A good invention is well protected”

I enjoy my work and get excited by good inventions! The best moments are when I am handling an invention in which I can immediately see the potential. A good invention needs good protection, so it’s rewarding to work for good IP protection. And what’s even better is when the invention is weighed in various court instances: if the patent survives the appeal processes and other exertion, it means I have succeeded.

The job of a patent attorney includes following the legislation and being aware of new stipulations. When we start building protection for an invention, the patent application must be written in a flexible way in case the legislation changes, and so that it will also function in various countries. The application must be watertight. A patent attorney must be able to explain understandably and in detail what the invention is about. The terminology must also be explained thoroughly.

“A patent attorney must have the ability to listen”

An IPR specialist’s most important tool is the ability to listen. You must be able to listen to the inventor and to discern what the invention is truly about, what the potential market is like and what are the characteristics in the particular field of technology. Already when writing the application, the patent attorney must think about the long-term goals, i.e. how the patent will be used in the future. It’s all about preparation.

Throughout the years, companies’ awareness of the protection of inventions and product development has increased. Previously, patents were seen more as an expense item, but fortunately, the exploitation of patents has become more efficient. Protecting intellectual property rights is definitely about protecting one’s business operations.

“You need an eye for details”

During my career, I have seen a few situations where customers wanted to amend the patent application afterwards. You have to remember that the “game” starts when we write the application. After the application is submitted to the patent office, you have to play with the cards you got.

The basic idea of patenting is to reveal the invention to the audience and in return, to receive a temporary exclusive right, based on which you can deny others from using the invention professionally. Recently, I came across upon an old patent application that a private person had written themselves. Unfortunately, the application did not fulfil all the formal requirements, and its quality was likely not enough to obtain protection. The innovation was revealed, basically, in vain.

It would have been really important that an IPR specialist would have read through the application. There is an enormous amount of details related to the protection of intellectual property rights, and it’s impossible for a private person to keep up with them. A poorly written application is a waste of money. Hiring an attorney to draft the patent application is a small expense when you consider the total costs of patenting.

Read another career path story: An ordinary patent attorney is a bona fide whiz with words

“Chess of the green fields relaxes me”

I started working at Kolster in January and have felt at home here. The actual work, such as writing applications and responding to official actions, was already familiar to me. However, it takes time to learn the company’s practices and understand the new systems. I enjoy working at Kolster, and I like the casual atmosphere that we have.

After my working days, I spend my time with my family and the children’s hobbies. My secret vice is soccer: when everyone else is already sleeping, I open the TV and watch soccer. Watching a good match is my way of relaxing.

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Kati Vesterinen
+358 50 486 7813