Both Bettina Hermann and Marco Box were recently appointed as partners at V.O.: Ms Hermann in Germany, and Mr Box in Belgium. In this double interview, they talk about what drives them, their ambition and their curiosity. ‘IP is empowering, IP gives you a solid footing to attract investors.’
How did you end up working as patent attorneys?
Bettina: ‘I was quite happy in my laboratory job, but working with patents fascinated me because of all the new technologies and inventions you get to deal with. For example, I started focusing both on legal questions relating to innovation and infringements.’
Marco: ‘I worked as an engineer for several years, in a project management role amongst others. During that time, I also studied law in the evenings. I found it really enjoyable, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with this new knowledge. One day, I met a patent attorney, and I knew immediately that that was the perfect job for me.’
Why did you choose to work for V.O.?
Marco: ‘V.O. approached me, and I was attracted by its solid reputation. When you start a job like this, you soon realise you actually know next to nothing, but in my three years as a trainee under the wing of a patent attorney, I picked up all the skills and knowledge I needed. Luckily, I was able to handle the steep learning curve pretty well, and before I knew it, I was holding discussions with inventors about their capabilities.’
Bettina: I worked for Frohwitter, a well-known German IP firm, and then for Jones Day, an American firm with around 3000 lawyers across the world. V.O. was the perfect next step. The firm has a great mix of national and international clients, and I was given the opportunity to grow the business in Germany.’
What do you need to be a good patent attorney?
Marco: ‘You need to understand that inventors have often spent years working on their project. When they come to talk to you about a possible patent, they expect you to get to grips with their idea pretty quickly. In addition, you need to constantly consider things from a legal perspective. If we do manage to protect your invention, what exactly do you hope to achieve?’
What is it that sets V.O. apart from other firms?
Bettina: ‘V.O. is one of the larger firms in Europe, and it clearly exudes quality. That’s not just my opinion – it’s what I hear from others, too. Also, whichever subject area we’re dealing with, we always have someone in-house who is familiar with it. This means that we can help any inventor, and that’s what gives V.O. its solid reputation.’
What makes your work so important?
Marco: ‘IP is an important tool to create value for a lot of businesses. Usually, monopolies are avoided at all costs, but our legal system makes an exception for IP. Intellectual property can give your small business a solid footing to attract investors: it provides ‘proof’ that your invention is unique and can be protected.’
How do you measure success?
Bettina: ‘I’m successful if my client is successful. Applying for a patent is not rocket science, and there are plenty of firms who can help you with that. However, getting a patent that really meets your needs is a different matter altogether.’
How do you view the future of your profession?
Marco: ‘There are a lot of different factors at play: the arrival of the UPC and the consequences of Brexit. No one knows exactly how those things will work out. One great development in Belgium is our response to the wave of high-tech startups. We’re providing them with tailor-made IP services at an initial fixed, low price, which is a fantastic bonus for startups who have little budget to spare for anything, let alone IP.’
Bettina: ‘I’m feeling confident about the future of intellectual property: it will remain an important factor, regardless of what happens with the UPC, for example. One general trend I’ve noticed is that clients have ever more stringent demands and are becoming more budget-conscious. Luckily, I believe there is plenty of room to grow here in Germany.’
Bettina Hermann studied biology and gained her PhD from the Technical University of Munich with a focus on microbiology, genetics, biochemistry and clinical chemistry. Bettina started her career in IP in 2001, and started working for V.O. in 2008. She has experience in advising both small and large biotech companies, and heads up the Regensburg and Munich offices.
Marco Box studied physics at Eindhoven University of Technology. He started his career as a patent attorney in 2003 after having worked in engineering. Marco is an experienced patent attorney in the fields of optics, software, general mechanics and fine-mechanical constructions. He is the head of the Leuven office.