Zacco’s IP Manager and Senior Partner Peter Ekwall in an interview on new colleagues, digitalisation, Life Science and relocating the Gothenburg office
Welcome, Peter! You are working as an IP Manager at the Gothenburg Office. Could you please present your team, what is it specialised in?
Peter: The patent attorneys in my team are assisting clients with a broad range of innovations, e.g. in regards to vehicles, hydraulic systems, hygiene and health care, telecommunications, scaffolding, just to mention a few. Many of them have a background from the industry and are authorized European Patent Attorneys with many years of work experience. Among them you will e.g. find one who knows everything about gearboxes, another one is very skilled when it comes to emission control. Their focus matches of course our region’s specific industrial orientation and needs.
And now the patent team is due to grow with two new and important attorneys? Please tell us more about this.
Peter: Yes, that is correct. At this point, we want to focus more on two specific areas. One is Internet of Things and Software patents where we want to develop our services and collaborate closely with the Software and Cyber Security specialists we have within Zacco. Therefore, it is a great pleasure for us that Fredrik Althoff will join Zacco. He is a high-profile IP expert coming most recently from a managerial position at Ericsson in Gothenburg and Lund. His task will be to develop the Zacco offer in this area and deepen the collaboration with Zacco’s internal Nordic Digital Forensics Centre. IoT, Industry 4.0, digitalization, these are keywords for businesses of all sizes and we will have a unique setting to meet these challenges.
And what is the second area that will get your special attention and a new attorney in the region?
Peter: That is of course Life Science and Medtech, where we are in the lucky position to welcome Jonny Brun soon in order to strengthen our Life Science-team. He is a highly skilled patent attorney most recently coming from Borealis. Like Fredrik, Jonny will join Zacco in May 2018. We have a lot of innovation activity in this sector in the region, e.g. I think of the AstraZeneca BioVentureHub and Sahlgrenska Science Park. Jonny will work together with our Life Science attorneys from Gothenburg and other offices e.g. in Stockholm, Copenhagen/Lund and Oslo. We see that these industries need access to specific competences as biology or biochemistry, but they also undergo a digitalization, their products are increasingly connected, they measure and save individual data, so they profit as well from the knowhow Zacco has in this sector.
During the last two years, the number of Zacco employees in the region has almost doubled and many of the new ones are Software developers and consultants. Where do you see the synergies? Can you give some example on your collaboration?
Peter: When Zacco chose to start recruiting Software consultants, the idea was to educate them and really increase their IP awareness to a top level. These experts are involved in innovation processes from the very beginning and they do raise questions to their customer like: How do you take care of software patents? How do you protect your innovations in terms of patents, trademarks, copyright, data protection regulation, agreements and so on? This helps to identify what you judge to be worth patenting and to structure the work with IP protection from the start and to keep Intellectual Property in mind at each stage. This is what a software consultant who has an IP understanding can contribute with in a unique way.
So this is the advantage a client can expect from hiring a Zacco Software consultant? That IP protection will be an integral part of the development process?
Peter: Yes, but there is even more to it. Our colleagues are also educated in patent database search, so they know how to find existing solutions to a given question and what is needed to use them legally e.g. via licensing. You do not always need to invest time and capacity into finding new answers; someone else might have done that already. And you should keep in mind that there might be uncertainties about who actually owns what in this fast evolving sector where you often come across Open Source solutions. In these environments, you need to evaluate the legal structure and situation carefully to make sure you understand it, our competence can fill an existing gap here. Open source does not mean you can just go ahead as you like. Furthermore, data security and access regulation is of course an issue for every innovation process. Who has access to confidential information at what level and if they leave, do employees take it with them, do they steal it? Our Cyber Security colleagues are able to verify this if needed.
The Gothenburg office will be moving from the city centre to a completely new building on Lindholmen, a business district across the river, at the beginning of next year. Can you give the reason for this choice?
Peter: The relocation of our office is a strategic decision. We feel that we get closer to our clients by this. Lindholmen has become a major hub for innovation, you find e.g. many actors from the automotive industry there and they are engaging in research and development at the leading edge. Autonomous driving, connectivity, MobilityXlab, a lot is happening and we are looking forward to move to this newly-build and modern office space.
To conclude, how would you summarize where Zacco in the region Sweden West stands today?
Peter: Zacco as a whole started out on a bold journey for approximately two years ago, when we crossed the boundaries and definition of a traditional IP consultancy and broadened the scope of IP. Nowadays, a company often has the lion part of its assets incorporated in form of intangibles, but not all of them can be registered IP. Knowhow, ownership structure, the digital appearance and presence of a brand, domain names, to consider all these aspects is what we call Zacco’s 360° perspective on Intellectual Property. We have made great progress on this and established internal collaboration. Our clients appreciate highly that we can cover such a broad range of services and that we can customize cross-regional client teams that tackle IP issues from these diverse angles and have started to understand why this is advantageous for them.
Thank you for your insights, Peter!