We talk to Colin Paterson, who has recently become a Partner at Keltie. Colin discusses his career highlights and learnings as well as the values and principles he feels are most important as a patent attorney.
Colin Paterson is a qualified European Patent Attorney and Chartered (UK) Patent Attorney. He has a PhD in Applied Mathematics and a BSc in Mathematics from the University of Strathclyde.
His technical experience is vast, from software- and mathematical-based technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to electronics and control engineering. Colin has spent time on secondment, working in-house at multinational companies.
We talk to Colin, who has recently become a Partner at Keltie. Colin discusses his career highlights and learnings. He discusses the values and principles he feels are most important as a patent attorney. He also reveals what industry trends and changes we might see and tells us how he will navigate them in his new role.
The times I have learned the most are times in which I have been exposed early to new situations or tasks and been determined to navigate them as independently as possible. After having been in the profession only a couple of months, I had the opportunity to take up a part-time secondment role within an in-house department. As a newly qualified attorney, I attended several in-person oral hearings at the European Patent Office (EPO) alone to represent clients. I have had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of clients from different industries and, in particular, I was able to interact directly with clients from the very beginning.
I often deal with subject matter that is relatively complex, or is at the edge of patentability, or both. I have learned to approach new situations with curiosity and resilience, and by relishing the challenge. Working with different types of clients has taught me to be adaptable. Indeed, some of the most satisfying matters I’ve worked on have been cases involving helping small companies or individuals through the entire patent process to obtain granted patent protection. A different approach to prosecution is often appropriate when working with smaller companies compared to larger ones.
There is a lot of noise at present around the automation of various aspects of our job using AI-driven, or other, technology tools. Some tasks are ripe for automation – indeed, implementing automation of many processes is well underway at Keltie – and some tasks where technology improvements are still needed before the tools can be of much practical use. The most interesting use cases of new technology – in this case, AI-based tools – tend not to become apparent for some time after the technological capability becomes available. The Internet looks a lot different today compared to its early days!
While the use of technology to do the tasks we already do more efficiently is valuable, what is critical is being open to using technology in ways that change or replace the tasks that need to be done, or that more fundamentally change how our job is performed.
Advanced prior art searching tools could be used to significantly change the patent filing strategy of companies. Prior art searching can be a classic ‘how long is a piece of string’ problem. It can quite quickly become more cost-effective to draft and file a patent application, and to have a patent office perform a prior art search, than to spend lots of time performing prior art searches ahead of a patent filing. Tools that enable prior art searching to be performed in a faster, more focused manner could be used to inform companies in a cost-effective way how to focus their patent filings, or in some cases, whether to proceed with patent filings at all.
Accountability, humility, and…fun.
As we gain experience as patent attorneys, we become more comfortable taking responsibility for our work without being under direct supervision. This then develops into being responsible for the work of others under your supervision. As a Partner, it is important to not just be comfortable with assuming such responsibility but to seek to be held accountable for the work and development of those for whom you are responsible.
We don’t get to where we want to be alone. At Keltie, I have had opportunities to forge my own path. I have been supported by people from across the firm, from being given longer-term opportunities by Partners and supervisors to be independent, to being helped with all of the various day-to-day tasks that need to be done across the different operational teams. I think that remaining humble about the fact that we are just a part of the greater firm means that we remain open to ideas, and to having our views challenged.
When I first started at Keltie and in the profession, I was fortunate enough to sit beside the firm’s founder, David Keltie. He was as dedicated, skilful, and professional as you might expect from someone who has grown a business from the ground up. But he also had a playful sense of humour that shone through, irrespective of the demands of running a firm. Our job can be challenging and, at times, serious, but there should always be room for fun along the way!
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