EP&C has 10 qualities that make it unique which is why our clients like to work with us. In a series of blogs we will explain more about these qualities. Up next is #6: we speak your language.
In our industry, we speak legal and technical in addition to Dutch and English. During a hearing day at the European Patent Office (EPO) it is crucial that we combine these languages as it is all about the technical and legal detail. So if you ever attend a hearing we will mainly speak your language beforehand. We will keep the use of legal terms to an absolute minimum then. By doing so, we ensure that you will understand exactly what it is happening when it is time for the hearing. Even if you don't speak the language.
When does a hearing occur?
A hearing at the EPO generally occurs in two instances. The first is when Party A challenges the validity of Party B's patent. For example, because Party A feels that Party B's innovation is not novel or inventive. We refer to this as opposition proceedings. Often it is in the challenger's interest that the patent is thrown out.
The second is when your patent is in danger of not being granted in the written proceedings. The EPO may then ask us to present our case orally.
During the preparations for these proceedings, we will speak each other's language
A hearing day is a stressful day. A great deal rides on it: whether or not you will be able to keep or obtain a patent. It therefore requires patent attorneys to be extremely focused. Both parties get the opportunity to respond to each other. Because we don't know what Party B or the EPO is going to come up with, it's crucial to be well prepared.
And that's why I, as a patent attorney, really need my clients’ help. I make sure that I understand all aspects of an innovation and know all the relevant technical and legal documents inside out. During the preparations there is plenty of time to explain to my clients in non-legal terms, for example, about what happens during a hearing and how the case is looking.
Last chance to persuade
A hearing day takes place at the end of the process. On that day the EPO will also immediately give its decision. This is why everything revolves around getting our arguments across to the EPO. This is the time to get our message across to them in their language - legal and technical. As a patent attorney, my role consists of 'translating' everything into the language spoken by the EPO. For you, the discussion can be quite difficult to follow because this discussion is conducted entirely in patent language.
It is essential to respond quickly with arguments and counterarguments and there is little time for explanations in between. And it is not unusual for something unexpected to happen, when a preliminary opinion suddenly changes during the hearing day, for example, or the opposing party suddenly comes up with a document we haven't seen before. A patent attorney must be able to respond quickly and above all convincingly to all these possible scenarios. This is why thorough preparation to ensure that we have a good understanding of your technology, your innovation and your business is crucial. After all, this is the last chance before the decision is handed down. It is possible to appeal, but it is of course better (and cheaper) to avoid this.
Hearing day is an exception
So on a hearing day we don't speak your language quite as much as you are used to from us. This is, of course, an exception. In the period leading up to this day we take time to discuss the strategy with you. And of course we also speak your language whenever we are in contact with you other than that. No legal jargon, but clear language on the complex subject matter of intellectual property.
If you would you like to know more about what patenting can do for you, please feel free to contact me for an informal talk in clear language.