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Shakeel (Shak) Ahmad, partner at Keltie, founded Keltie's IT, telecoms, and electronics practice over 25 years ago. Today, he heads up a talented team that advises on patent issues in all areas of technology and software.


Keltie is ranked once again as one of Europe’s leading Patent Law Firms in the Financial Times 2024 Listings.  We talk to Shak to discuss the IT challenges clients face today and learn how Keltie is helping them in this ever-evolving area. He discusses his career journey and how the FT listings differ from other awards.

Firstly, congratulations on being awarded Gold in the IT & Software category.


I am delighted that the Keltie Software and IT team has maintained its highest ranking in Europe for the fourth year in a row. The whole team strives to ensure that the client experience with us is second to none, and this is reflected in the gold medal ranking.


Can you tell us about your journey in the IT field and what initially sparked your interest in this area?


I have always had a fascination for technology, electronics, and computer science, in particular. Most of this I attribute to my eccentric physics teacher at school who was for example very happy to demonstrate lab safety by reversing the polarity on electrolyte capacitor to blow it up before our eyes!


I have seen this field evolve at a breathtaking pace during this 4th Industrial Revolution. There have been many wonderful innovations during that time, such as personal computers, mobile phones, the Internet and search engines, smartphones, electric vehicles, video calling, blockchain, and, of course, now generative artificial intelligence (AI), which many of us take for granted today.  It has been so exciting to see how this innovation has had such a significant impact on the everyday lives of people all around the world with a great deal more to come, I am sure.


Are there any challenges you face in the IT field?


The challenge has been applying laws written before this boom, particularly concerning programs for computers, and trying to adapt IP strategies to align them with commercial objectives. Not only have we needed to understand these innovations, but we have also had to be quite creative in the way we describe and present them to ensure that they do not fall foul of the limitations of the existing IP laws.


However, it is these techniques that we have cultivated in taking a commercial approach and trying to find a way through the most difficult of cases that have endeared us to many clients. It has helped to make the software and IT practice at Keltie, founded less than three decades ago, into one of the top practices in Europe today.


How are Europe’s leading Patent Law Firms FT Listings different from other awards, and why is this such an achievement?


These awards are based purely on voluntary client feedback. The firm is not asked to make submissions to be assessed by researchers and committees. As a consequence, these FT awards are only given if a firm can maintain a level of service with existing and new clients. Keltie has maintained its rankings from last year in the face of increasing competition, but once again we are in the top 10 ranked firms in Europe for medals awarded.


This achievement is due to our hard work to ensure that we achieve the commercial objectives of the client and also to make the client experience of engaging with Keltie rewarding and productive. Clients and associates take the time and trouble to comment on their interactions with Keltie. Those interactions involve not just attorneys but many other people who make up the Keltie team. This includes the finance teams, paralegals, renewal teams, patent docketing teams, and receptionists. The desire of the whole Keltie team to serve their clients to the best of their ability has been reflected in the commendations and recommendations Keltie has received subsequently. Yet, we believe we can always do better, so we strive to keep improving our systems and processes to make the client experience even better.


What are the main challenges IP clients are experiencing in the tech area right now?


One of the main challenges clients face relates to the recent proliferation of AI-related technology in almost all business areas. A great deal of investment is required to create tools and applications of AI-related technology to solve commercial problems. Many of these remove the need for tedious human processes or human intervention, but others are more sophisticated in the analysis and control of various processes and even decision-making.


Changes to policy and more government regulation are already happening, such as the recent EU regulation (the EU AI Act 2024), and companies are grappling with this uncertain environment. Also existing patent law is being tested with cases such as Emotional Perception AI Ltd vs Comptroller-General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks. Trying to protect investment in AI-related technology is challenging as IP laws inevitably lag behind the developments in this rapidly changing technology.


How is Keltie helping them with these challenges?


The specialist AI patents team at Keltie is very busy keeping abreast of all current IP legal developments and advising clients on the practical measures that can be taken to protect their investment in such AI-related projects. There are often cases where we advise clients to maintain the AI-related technology as a trade secret rather than to patent, given the difficulty to reverse engineer the invention. However, where disclosure is inevitable, we can advise on how best to patent the application of AI to solve various technological problems not only in the UK but in many countries around the world.


What benefits do clients see when working with a specialist IP firm such as Keltie?


Patenting technology is a lengthy and complicated process with a myriad of different options. Using a specialist firm ensures that the clients are best equipped to navigate the ever-changing landscape of law and how the law applies to advancements in technology that pervade all innovation, such as AI.


Firms like Keltie seek to provide attorneys with technical excellence in their respective technological fields, from biotechnology through engineering to IT and software, and a deep understanding of how to get the best results from the legal systems in countries all over the world. All our attorneys have a real passion for technology and a real desire to achieve the commercial objectives of the client. Armed with technical and legal knowledge, we can understand the technology and provide reasoned commercial strategies to exploit the existing legal system to the best effect.

Continue reading about Q&A with Shakeel Ahmad: Keltie’s journey to the top of Europe’s patent law firms
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