My Study Visit to the European Patent Office in Munich  21st Jan 2020

Prior to the Corona virus outbreak I was blessed to have booked a trip in January to the European Patent Office in Munich in January 2020. I had planned at least four trips to Europe this year including the annual Swiss Paralegal association at the ZHAW university.

As I was in Birmingham, United Kingdom that weekend I was planning my year ahead. It was December 2019 and I had recently completed my Masters Degree in International Commercial Law from Brunel University in Uxbridge, London. Some of the modules I completed were Commercial Arbitration, Corporate Law and Intellectual Property Law.

I don’t know why but I found the study of Intellectual Property Law just to provide that edge for me in terms of learning and ideas over the other areas of Law. It had a different feel about it, with various students in the class from science backgrounds, which surprised me at the outset. Of course this was my first exposure to studying this subject and I later realised the nature of why many chemists and biotech students were on the course.

I undertook Copyrights and Patent Law. I really enjoyed the quality of teaching on Patent Law which was very thorough and gave me an in depth understanding of how this would apply in real life circumstances. The university was fortunate in providing guest speakers from the Intellectual property world to advise us on various areas of Intellectual property and its application in real life work situations.

Studying Patents at University

This helped to feed my desire to work in this area.

But I was still confused as to the nature of the work and whether I would be accepted into this line considering Patents was introduced to me at the age of 40!.

I had studied everything under the sun so how was I now to make my mark in this area.

After speaking to the Universities Professional Development Centre, I was advised that networking was going to be important to whether I was to make a mark in this area.

The PDC advised me from the outset that my skills set was in Regulation and Compliance and therefore I should focus my efforts here.

However being dissatisfied with where I could be heading, I decided to start making initial applications all in the area of Intellectual property Law.

Little to my surprise there was very little feedback on these applications for me. From October when I completed my Dissertation I was making applications.

I knew that come January there was a chance that It could be a quiet few months and therefore I took every opportunity to apply.

After my degree

After October 2020 I found myself In India for a cousins wedding but my passion for making a success in this area didn’t stop.

I found myself speaking with the Indian Institute of Patent and Trademark Attorney’s on the one quiet day I had during this break.

This was to gain an understanding of how this system worked in such a large country.

Having visited a few websites on Intellectual Property events I found the best ones to be in Europe. I later realised the head office for European applications was in Munich. They also had a study visit there.

Also it was being held in January so would be a good start to 2020. I booked myself a two day trip leaving on the 20th January and returning on the 22nd January 2020. Having understood the event was in English, this fuelled my passion for the event.

I was concerned that German was not my first language but having attended two events in Zurich the following year which were all in German. I was definitely seeking to participate.

On arrival in Munich Airport I realised I had booked myself a Holiday Inn almost an hour from Munich Airport. This did concern me a little, as I was concerned the event would not be easy to get too. I came to a conclusion that a train ticket was better then a cab. Around 45 minutes later I arrived at the Holiday Inn was set remotely away from the main city centre. I was dreading how I would make it the next day. However I was put in survival mode and asked as many questions as possible to hotel staff. It all helped.

Event Day

It was now the day of the event and not being used to Google maps I found myself asking directions. I found myself looking for friendly faces and eventually found Sven who had striking similarities to the famous Liverpool football manager  Jurgen Klopp. He directed me towards the venue saying I was quite a way from the venue. It was 8.15am the event was at 9.00 am. I was directed to Petershuasen. It was literally minutes from the station. Although the journey was around 25 minutes I was still struggling to find the EPO.

Eventually upon turning a corner there was a building which looked very familiar to what I had seen on Google. It was here that I asked one final question to a local. ‘Is this the European Patent Office?.   Yes this is it’’ was the reply. I was awe struck at the size and structure of this skyscraper type building, all dedicated to Patents.  Patents from this didn’t strike me as a area which was just something I took off a book shelf or an area which I had studied before. I mean they have a dedicated building huge in stature dedicated to this field.

Whilst walking up the steps of this magnificent building I saw many of the flags of the various foreign countries which showed that this was in fact where all major applications are filed. Upon going up the steps of the office I had to declare my belongings to security,  I was then guided to the relevant room for my seminar which was Room 128. And there it was this huge room filed with candidates from different countries all ready for an action packed seminar. We were provided with a timetable sheet of what was taking place which included;

Timetable for the day

09.00  Welcome- Introduction to the EPO, facts and figures by Enrico Luzzatto

09.45  The day of an EPO examiner- Francesco di Giorgio, senior expert, EPO Munich

10.15  Coffee break

10.45  Why  patent searching matters by Roland Feinaugle, Head of Awareness, marketing and business use of patent information, EPO Vienna

11.15  How to search in patent databases- Roland Feinaugle

12.15 Lunch (EPO Canteen)

13:30- The search for prior art: an examiner’s point of view Introduction and practical exercises by Francesco di Giorgio.

15:15- Coffee break

15:45 Career opportunities at the EPO- Sebastian Ohia, employer branding specialist, Talent Acquisition, EPO Josephine Dibaya, talent acquisition manager, Talent Acquisition, EPO.

My questions  

Upon listening to the facts and figures surrounding the EPO, it amazed me as to how many different types of applications are filed with the EPO. Senior Advisor Enrico Luzzatto demonstrated considerable knowledge of the work of the EPO and demonstrated the use of the EPO website to the various candidates. Thereafter I asked numerous questions.

  1. How long does a prior art examination last?
  2. What types of opposition is made to an EPO decision?
  3. Can the EPO be held liable for its decisions and are they binding on refusal of patent applications.
  4. What if an examiner does get it wrong during a Prior art search? Is there recourse to appeals.

Lunchtime

It was approaching lunchtime and I was approached by numerous students being the only United Kingdom student on the visit, I was asked questions about Brexit and how I felt about the situation. I responded it wasn’t an area which I was following but yes was not proud of the UK decision to exit. As lunch continued, we were treated to 3 course meals free of charge, I chose fish and vegetables as the range of dishes was so wide, I stuck to the options I was familiar with followed by a cup of tea.

The search for prior art:

We were guided as to the EPO website at www.epo.org where Francesco di Giorgio provided an in depth step by step guide to filing on the EPO website. I have to admit it was mind boggling with so many options to choose from. It was difficult to grasp but I slowly started following. We were then given tasks to complete on the day which included identifying the subject matter of a patent, interpretation of the patent and the various claims made to the patent. All very new to me. The hosts then decided to draw an illustration of a bicycle and asked us to identify the features and what could be classed as patentable on that cycle. This was done in teams and gave further insight into what could be novel considering the requirements of patentability.

I also asked the question as per the EPO website as to whether there was a section as to the website where representatives can file on behalf of their clients. I was directed to this confidently.

At this stage I felt proud of myself for asking relevant questions which would be noted by others too. I was now making the most of my visit and thereafter we resumed for a small coffee break.

Career opportunities

The final session of the event was the careers section with numerous questions asked to the Talent Acquisitions panel. Of course at this stage Brexit was definitely on my mind and I needed to know that any future career prospects which I may have were not short lived by the UK’s exit. The acquisition panel was quick to inform that us Brits would not be affected by the UK exit.  I asked about courses relating to Intellectual property and if these could assist in improving job applications. Patent examiner roles and Patent Analyst positions are available and a number of other roles were described. However there were requirements of 5 years employment under supervision which were quite off the radar for myself. I obtained the business card of the various EPO members and this helped in maintaining long term relationships with these valuable members.

Finishing our event

Upon finishing the event I returned with my head asking many questions about the European Patent Academy and how would this apply to the UK system. After all my firm was looking to deliver this type of service so it would be good to incorporate a system where the UK and European service is offered through our platform.

I decided to return to the Holiday Inn Munich Messe more confident of finding my way back! I thereafter ordered Pizza slices and was then contacted by Sven who I met at the station and exchanged numbers with. Sven joined me at the Holiday Inn for drinks thereafter.  I even got his signature!