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Sean has been a partner at Keltie since 1993. He moved to Ireland in 2016 to establish Keltie's Irish offices and to maintain the firm's EU practice following Brexit.

We had a Guinness with Sean to discuss the last 35 years at Keltie. He has seen Keltie develop from a start-up firm that could fit into a taxi back in pre-internet days to become the “amazing” firm it is today, ready for the AI world.

How do you think Keltie has changed over the last 35 years? 

 

Most noticeably, Keltie is twenty-five times larger than when I joined! And the upstart that used to describe itself, proudly, as a ‘one-cab’ firm is now, just as proudly, an established two-country, five-office firm. But change hasn’t merely been a matter of size; it’s also about capability and building for the long term. Now, we have strength in depth across all IP fields, a fantastic support team and great young talent coming through.

 

Why do you think the core values have stayed the same?

 

David Keltie’s dream was to “create something amazing”. What he created was a place that has always embraced evolution. So, we’re always different - every 35 days, never mind 35 years!

 

We’re still doing our best to be amazing. It shows in our focus on people and in the privilege we feel for being part of a wonderful profession. Put simply, we want our people to do the job they love in a place they love. Quality of work and quality of life flow from that. We work together with a sense of enjoyment that rubs off on our clients and brings them on the journey with us.

 

How do you think IP and the world of patents have changed over the last 35 years?

 

We’ve been around long enough to remember life without the internet, and that’s changed every walk of life. Professionals can’t hide behind mystique anymore; IP knowledge has become too accessible for that, and transparency has made everything so competitive. Fortunately, we’ve had to be competitive from day one, so it’s nothing new to us.

 

In an increasingly commoditised world, we’ve always felt that value lies not merely in doing stuff that others can do too, but in advising clients on what they should (and shouldn’t) do. And then whatever you decide to do, do it exceptionally well.

 

What do the next 35 years look like in this industry? 

 

As always, the coming years will be ones of change, not just for us but also for our clients. But as IP arises from change, bring it on!

 

AI looks to be transformative for the legal profession, for better or for worse. Fortunately, AI relies on past knowledge but what we do in IP arises from the creation of new knowledge. So, I think there will always be a human in the loop somewhere, just freed from unnecessary drudgery to add real value for clients.

 

The IP profession is seeing some interesting new business models for firms and a lot of mergers and acquisitions. Firms that don’t evolve could find evolution forced upon them pretty soon!

 

Why do you enjoy what you do?

 

I was the kid who took stuff apart to find out how it worked. But I rarely had the patience or the ability to put it back together again! Fortunately, after starting out as an engineer, I concluded that the world of engineering would be better off with me on the outside looking in. Whether my choice was a good thing for the world of IP is for others to say…

 

I love the variety, the fascinating things we see, the brilliant people we deal with, and the board-level access to the commercial thinking of great clients. I love the global nature of the IP profession and the places I’ve been fortunate to visit on business as a result. I love the feeling of turning a thought into an asset and the joy of getting a great result. But most of all, I love the journey of helping a client to grow and of growing beside them.

 

So, in my career at Keltie, I've had the satisfaction of not only helping other businesses to grow but of building our own business too. It's been fabulous to work beside my colleagues as we've climbed from small beginnings to the heights we've reached today. Having played a part in establishing Keltie in the UK, I feel incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to do it again in Ireland. Not many people get to experience that even once in their lives; very few are lucky enough to experience it twice.

 

What three things have you learned over the last 35 years?

 

  1. I’ve learned the truth of what my father always used to say: "Life is about people."
  2. In an increasingly complicated world, I've learned that there’s real value in making complex things simple.
  3. It’s not just about what you know; it’s really about having the curiosity to know more. So, above all, I’ve learned that learning must never stop.

 

Sean and Keltie today

 

Keltie is an award-winning firm that's recognised by its clients and peers alike as one of Europe's leading IP practices.

 

Sean combines his leadership role as a Keltie partner with Directorship of the firm's Irish subsidiary. He leads a growing team in two Irish offices, including a unique IP presence among the innovation community of Galway.

 

Sean acts across the full span of IP disciplines for clients ranging from individuals to multinationals. He is adept at drafting and filing patent and trade mark applications and steering them through to completion. He particularly enjoys acting for investors and using that experience to help clients seeking investment based on high-quality IP assets.

 

A proud son of Galway parents, Sean loves to introduce his UK-based colleagues to the people, sights and experiences of the West of Ireland. The legendary hospitality of Keltie's Irish team ensures that there's never been a shortage of visitors!

Continue reading about Keltie turns 35: A look back at the journey so far with Sean Cummings
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