We had the privilege to interview Michael Nielsen, one of our new employees. Please read below how he sees attorney’s role in the future and how did he end up working at Boco’s UK Desk.
Who are you and how did you end up as patent attorney?
I always enjoyed maths and science at school and I was lucky to have several excellent physics teachers. The natural conclusion was that I went on to study physics at university. I ended up at Imperial College London, where I studied for a master’s degree in theoretical physics, focussing on computational physics. I had originally planned to continue on to study for a PhD, but after doing my master’s research project, I knew that scientific research wasn’t the career for me.
I needed to find a new career path, so I went to a lot of different talks at the university careers service. One of those talks was from a patent attorney and, after a more research, I liked the sound of the job and I decided to apply for jobs as a trainee patent attorney in London.
How did you end up working at Boco’s UK desk?
Fortunately, one of the companies I applied to for a job decided to hire me! I spent nearly 7 years at that company, where I trained and qualified as both a UK patent attorney and a European patent attorney. After spending more than a decade in London, I decided that it was time to move on from the pollution and the crowds. The obvious choice was Finland, with its low population density and exceptionally clean air. It might also have something to do with the fact that while I was in London, I met and fell for a Finn. So, we moved to Finland and I started working for Boco IP in March 2019.
What is most rewarding in your work?
The most rewarding part of the job for me is the moment when everything clicks into place and I understand how a new invention works.
As patent attorneys spend longer in the profession, our knowledge of the law and the patent system improves, but we get further away from the technical knowledge that we picked up at university, or from working in industry. However, I think it’s just as important for a patent attorney to keep their technical knowledge up to date as it is to keep their legal knowledge up to date. When I reach the point where I truly understand how a new invention works, it shows me that I am on the right track.
How do you see the patent attorney’s role in the future?
Coming from a software background, the changes I see coming to the role of a patent attorney relate mostly to new technology that will help us to do our jobs. We have access to huge amounts of publicly available data from many different patent offices, which can be used to train machine learning models and ultimately streamline many of the tasks that we do today. The relatively mechanical parts of the job, for example basic patent searching, are ripe for this kind of automation. This will free up time for patent attorneys to do things that computers can’t do (and won’t be able to for some time at least), such as detailed reviews of patent documents, infringement and validity analyses, freedom to operate analyses, and giving advice to our clients.
However, these developments in automation also raise some interesting questions about the current set up of the patent system. Many in the field are currently discussing whether or not an artificial intelligence system can be named as an inventor on a patent application. However, I don’t think that’s a very interesting question – regardless of who (or what) the inventor is, it’s still clear who the owner of the patent is. Instead, I think it raises a bigger question: if a relatively simple machine can produce something that is considered to involve an inventive step, is the current standard for inventive step too low? If we get to a point where the “inventions” of computers are indistinguishable from the inventions of people, it would seem that we need to reassess how we judge whether or not an invention is deserving of a patent. Any changes in the law or practice to reflect this issue could lead to a much bigger change in the role of a patent attorney than we have seen for a long time.