Adam Trawczyński is a patent attorney specializing in the protection of inventions in the field of chemistry, biotechnology, pharmacy, and medicine. He conducts application procedures for national, European, and international inventions, as well as the matters related to the grant of supplementary protection certificates (SPC). He participates in handling litigation and court proceedings. Moreover, he is the author of publications in the field of patent law and he conducts training courses for companies and R&D units.
How did it happen that you started working for JWP?
It’s a tricky story because it was my wife Emilia who was initially interested in the profession of a patent attorney. And it was her who planned such a career path after graduation.
At that time, as a graduate of the Warsaw University of Technology, I was a subscriber to a newsletter of the local career office, which was a partner of the JWP Foundation’s talent acquisition program called Rzecznicy Talentów [Attorneys at Talent]. After reading the e-mail about the program, I said to my wife: “Look, Honey, they are organizing a course on intellectual property law. Let’s go, maybe this is something for us.”
That was six years ago. I joined JWP Patent & Trademark Attorneys as the winner of the second edition of the program. First, I completed a three-month internship, and then I stayed in the firm as an assistant to a patent attorney. In September 2016, I passed the apprenticeship exam and became a patent attorney trainee; then, there were brief perturbations due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to postpone the exam. Finally, the exam took place, and I have been a patent attorney since December 2020.
Already during my internship, I really enjoyed this profession and I wanted to continue such a career. It’s been six years since then, so I’m already a little further along the professional path, but I have very fond memories of it. I also have some comparative scale because I have gone through many positions at JWP, from lower to higher ones, which gives a lot of knowledge and a view of work from many perspectives.
How do you recall your first days at JWP?
At first, it was a shock for me. It was like a picture from an American, or Warsaw, TV series. Everything seemed new to me and highly professional. It was a clash of two worlds: the scientific reality prevailing at the university and research institutes, where I had the opportunity to work before, with large-scale commercial business, governed by its own rules, and a modern office.
The profession of a patent attorney – what does this job look like “from behind the scenes”?
We work with data and information almost all the time, especially patent attorneys who work in technical fields because every solution is different and requires a separate analysis. Each time, it is necessary to find out what the solution is, what technical effect is achieved, or what problem is solved thanks to it.
We provide the client with a professional opinion that the solution is patentable and there is a chance to obtain a patent, or that we need to modify the scope of protection. It also happens that we encourage the client to develop the technology in some specific direction that may arise directly from our analysis.
There are a lot of third parties’ exclusive rights on the market and entrepreneurs have to deal with them, monitor them, search for them, and be aware of their existence in order not to infringe these exclusive rights. This is another issue that patent attorneys address.
It is also important to realize that we are not always on the side that obtains the right for the client. Sometimes clients may have a problem due to the existence of someone else’s right and believe that it was granted incorrectly, e.g. for a solution that in their opinion is not new. Then we are on the opposite side of the barricade and act on behalf of the client to invalidate such defectively granted patent. Therefore, the spectrum of activities is very broad, but what connects them is certainly a lot of analytical work, work with data, within the patents, and technical solutions – one cannot escape from that.
What fascinates you in this profession?
What I find most interesting from the perspective of this profession is the variety of solutions we encounter; the fact that every solution is different and relates to very different fields. This is the advantage of working in a larger patent office, which, I think, cannot be experienced while working as an “in-house” patent attorney in a given company or running a single-person law firm. At JWP, we have a lot of specializations; I work in the patent department, which is dedicated to life science and materials chemistry. On a daily basis, I deal not only with such areas as chemistry, biotechnology, medicine, pharmacy, material engineering, but also with heavy oil processing and extraction of chemical raw materials. Sometimes I’m involved with construction aggregates, while other times the inventions are more about pharmaceuticals, medicine, or crop protection products. That’s what keeps it interesting.
There’s also a lot of room to use skills in many areas. It is important both to communicate with the client and to talk to them strategically about the opportunities, about the risks, about why it’s worth taking a certain path and not taking the other path as it may prove ineffective. There are a lot of threads that we discuss in relation to the specific case with which the client comes to us. It is great to have the opportunity to interact with inventors and to support their efforts in the process of development and protection of innovative solutions.
Have you ever had a funny or unusual situation at work?
Yes, sometimes it’s surprising but also funny. Clients come to us with very different solutions and ideas. Often, in the minds of clients, there is a popular interpretation of the word “patent”, that is, to obtain a form of protection for an idea. We, on the other hand, have to place this within the framework of the law, which defines what a patent can and cannot be granted for. We need to answer the following questions: does a given solution meet the requirements to be a technical solution? Does it constitute an object that is excluded from patents, such as a method for treatment or inventions that are based on purely mathematical methods or scientific discoveries? Sometimes, this is also an element of our work – to walk the path from discovery to the construction of the invention together with the inventor, that is, the path to a particular solution for which protection can be obtained.
I remember one such funny situation from my first years of work. At that time, we were approached by a gentleman who wanted to patent a pigeon competition system! Back then, as a fresh trainee, I was tasked by my then superiors to face this question and respond to the client on the basis of the Industrial Property Law Act. Curious about this topic, I started to dig into it. The client sent us a link to his website, and it turned out that he is actually a breeder of fancy pigeons, which to my surprise is a very expensive and time-consuming hobby. Some pigeons that are considered beautiful and can win prizes in competitions are horrendously expensive. The client, who approached us at the time, developed a way of comparing individuals in terms of what points they could score in the competition. It is a similar situation as in the case of exhibitions of any other purebred animals, e.g. cats, where they are judged in terms of meeting the criteria for a given breed, e.g. the shape of the eyes, ears, behavior, or reaction to stimuli. This also applies to pigeons. I remember there was a lot of laughter, but on the other hand, well… People try to protect their ideas, very different ones, and it’s our job to assess whether it can be done and how to do it best.
In this particular case, we were not able to provide protection to the game system in the form of pigeon competition. It was a game, and mathematical methods, mental methods, are not patentable, so here it was not possible to translate it into any technical solution to help that client; but, of course, he got an answer from us. However, it shows how, colloquially speaking, “wild” can be the ideas that we face every day.
And was this idea of the gentleman dealing with the pigeons protected in any other way?
No, it wasn’t protected in the end because it was an example of a client who comes to us with an idée fixe. He has an idea, but he only has a concept. And we can only protect those ideas that have materialized. The issue of choosing the right form of protection, depending on whether it is a technical solution or whether it is a design that is supposed to please the eye of the potential consumer – these are things that we are able to evaluate and protect. What still needs to be clarified is that the job of a patent office is not to be a hub for inventors. We help inventors to obtain a monopoly on their solutions. Each of us has the technical knowledge, market knowledge in a given industry and can be an advisory voice, while the issue of the solution itself and the direction in which the client develops its product is its job and its business decision.
Do you have a hobby?
The contact with nature is what I like and value in my free time – I mean hiking in the mountains or cycling. Any form of spending time that allows me to get away from the computer for a while is highly desirable. A few years ago I was an enthusiastic rollerblader and I even took part in speed skating competitions.
I get the impression that your work is also your passion.
Yes, it certainly is to a large extent. Of course, this is also strictly a professional activity, but it is undoubtedly a profession that requires commitment and I cannot imagine doing it in the so-called 9 to 5. This job requires being in the community of attorneys, keeping up with legal changes, with what is happening in the surroundings. It is also necessary to be proficient in the industry in which one specializes, in my case, it is chemistry, biotechnology, and medicine. One has to be up to date.
I also try to popularize knowledge about intellectual and industrial property law; sometimes, I write an article or conduct training on this subject. Because of all this, it is a professional interest, indeed, and it definitely consumes a lot of my time.
It requires commitment.
I’m sure you have a goal, a dream. Can you reveal your secret?
I have big dreams, and not just one. And there would probably be some goals too. In the professional sphere, I would like to improve awareness of intellectual and industrial property rights, mainly among small and medium-sized enterprises. I observe that there is a need to inform that it is worthwhile to register your rights since all industrial property rights (unlike copyright) arise upon registration. It is required to file an application with the relevant Patent Office, possibly through a patent attorney as a business advisor. There is a lot of work to be done to make Polish entrepreneurs aware of the fact that it is worth doing because it brings benefits in the form of a certain exclusivity.
I cannot imagine that entrepreneurs who invest their own money in the development of a new product or technology would simply launch the product on the market and wait until it is counterfeited by the competitors. In order to manage risk and business profitability from the entrepreneur’s perspective, turning towards obtaining a monopoly, registering the relevant industrial property rights, such as filing an invention for protection or applying for protection of industrial designs, in terms of what the final product looks like, is a kind of policy for the entrepreneur. In the case of patents, the exclusivity lasts for 20 years. This is a period to prove that the earlier investment in the development of a new technology simply pays off. It is well known that all entrepreneurial activities are motivated by the need to make a profit, and of course, one does all kinds of things around that. However, the main need is to earn in order to reward oneself, one’s employees, and to some extent to earn in order to be able to stimulate the circle of development, that is, to create further innovations.
In fact, this is what the entire patent system is based on. It is an agreement between the state and the applicant that says that we, dear inventor, as an authority, will guarantee you a monopoly, but in return, you describe and define your solution. Thanks to the publication, the competitors have the opportunity to become familiar with this solution and they are stimulated to improve their solutions. Seeing the solutions of the competitors, being aware of the fact that they cannot be produced in an identical form because here it is the competitor who has a monopoly, will inspire others to do it differently or better; they will change, develop and submit their own solution and protect it. This is a mechanism that guarantees the constant advancement of knowledge in all areas of technical human activity.
A lot of people do not realize what a patent actually is – having a patent in the form of a “congratulatory card” from the Patent Office is one thing, but it is also an asset of an enterprise, a required element of financial settlement… We can talk about a patent on many different levels. The first point is, primarily, that it is a legal instrument that justifies undertaking innovative activities because it protects exclusivity and allows for financial progress.
It also has a big impact on the market…
Yes, it is constant stimulation of the market, a constant search for improvements.
It’s not surprising that this is your goal, as it has an impact on the world; it’s safe to say that it’s a noble goal.
Some time ago, during backstage conversations at work, the topic of how technical students are educated came up. When, ten or so years ago, we had classes in intellectual property law, depending on our luck, a lecturer would come and most often talk about writing poems and singing songs. This is also very important, but has too little to do with the protection aspect of technical solutions. And that is what technical students are going to face when they graduate from institutions of higher education. When they enter the industry and make new products, they should have this knowledge in the back of their minds. If they continue the scientific path, then it is even more likely that they will be the authors of various solutions, and they should be aware of where the boundary between scientific discovery and the development of a solution worth seeking patent protection for. Raising awareness is always the right way to go. People should know how to use it wisely.
And then we will be needed more. This is also a kind of wish from my perspective, from the perspective of our community of attorneys: to educate people in this area so that they are aware and they know that when it comes to this type of work, the best person to contact is a patent attorney and not, for example, a lawyer who deals with divorces. I am not convinced that they would be the best advisor in terms of inventions or copyright. It is worth betting on full specialization.