Mirosława Ważyńska is a Polish and European patent attorney. For over 30 years now she has been advising clients on the protection of inventions in the fields of biotechnology, chemistry, pharmacy, medicine and mechanics. She conducts proceedings concerning domestic and foreign patent applications (EP and PCT), utility models and industrial designs and performs validations of European patents. She is involved in SPC proceedings and litigations, both in Poland, before the Polish Patent Office or the Voivodeship Administrative Court, and abroad, before the EPO. She also deals with the legal protection of plant varieties in Poland (COBORU) and worldwide.
Could you tell us how you joined JWP? Did you know the firm before or maybe it was just a coincidence?
It was over 10 years ago. I had heard of JWP, of course – I had previously worked for another firm which cooperated with Ms. Dorota Rzążewska. Both law firms were on the same floor, actually, in the same office building in Żurawia Street, so it was quite a natural transition for me.
What do you remember about your first days at work here?
What usually stays in mind are things that are out of ordinary or special in some way… Nothing like that happened, it was all natural and nice.
What do you like most about your job? Which aspect of this profession do you find particularly interesting?
For me the most interesting aspect is litigation. You have to look for arguments no matter which side you are on: different ones to defend and different ones to attack. If I could, I would be in the courtroom all day long, listening and learning. There’s no other way to learn the ropes in this business. You can’t get it from books.
I also like to share my experience with others, but only if it is welcome – if they are willing to listen to me. Nowadays people tend to resort to Google or some websites for advice and things you have experienced firsthand are often of little value to others. I have a teacher’s streak, probably because I worked at the University of Warsaw for 15 years teaching undergraduate students. This experience of teaching is deeply rooted in me. The exchange of knowledge, whether in a team or on a blog, is a very important and positive part of my work. I really enjoy talking with colleagues, trainee patent attorneys and assistants, because certain dilemmas they have can only surface in such conversations. What is obvious and not even worth mentioning for me, for them can pose a problem.
As for everyday matters, I really like meeting and talking with the inventors. We can discuss what it is they really want and decide whether their invention is really an invention or rather a scientific publication. Most often I need to make them aware of what can be submitted to the Polish Patent Office and what is not accepted.
Within our team, I am responsible for applications concerning supplementary protection certificates (SPCs), and at the moment I’m sharing this duty with Adam Trawczyński. This is a field where Sherlock Holmes skills come in very handy, because it’s not only about the essence of the case, but more about the formalities, i.e. you have to check all the dates, documents… All these jigsaw puzzles that you get from the client have to be put together, plus whatever you dig up yourself on the websites of the offices issuing relevant European decisions and certificates. Everything must be in order. An SPC application is made up of all these things. It is relatively difficult to obtain such protection at the Polish Patent Office, as it means an additional maximum of five years of protection after the “lifespan” of the patent has ended (the SPC is granted only for inventions in the field of medicinal products and plant protection). Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to clarify the matter further. The right is obtained on the basis of the EU Directive as adapted by Polish regulations. So, it is a real minefield and you never know what you may come across. That’s why it is so interesting, despite the fact that these are supposed to be just formalities. SPC issues are also often part of the litigation over the basic patent.
I like this kind of childlike joy, openness, thinking outside the box that fills me at work. I’ve dealt with various fields in my practice, including mechanics, utility models, even trademarks. I do not limit myself to patents concerning life science solutions. I have learned to approach things and people with an open mind and flexibility. I think it makes you innovative to some extent. Being inflexible, narrow-minded, limited only to black and white options prohibits you from seeing solutions that are available and often remain unsaid. What is important in my work is looking at things from a wider perspective, considering areas at the intersection of different specializations, listening carefully and asking questions, systematically expanding and updating my knowledge in order to be able to offer best advice and support to our clients.
How has the profession of the patent attorney changed over the years?
Nowadays, we are concerned with validations on an everyday basis. It is hardly innovative but necessary. You have to put in a lot of effort, because often it is both the topic and the deadline that pose a challenge. At the same time, verifying European patents validated in Poland gives you an opportunity to learn about the latest solutions that are protected in Europe.
Another big change is that recently we have all been working from home. There is no denying that there were a lot of technical hiccups to deal with. We have it all sorted out at the moment, but this does not mean there are no new challenges ahead. You constantly have to adapt, learn and get used to new situations, as well as take advantage of the new technologies that have become available.
After 40 years, the Unified Patent Court is finally being established and it is something I would like to be a part of. I think I will need some postgraduate studies or training in this area, because an appropriate certificate is required. Nobody knows if Polish clients will undergo this procedure – not all of them can afford to pay hundreds of thousands of euros. Still, it is always better to have such a certificate and be ready than to look for it later when the need arises. So, the Unified Patent Court is an interesting career option for me in the future.
Could you tell us about some unusual situation you had at JWP?
I have been dealing with biological treatment plants for a long time. One of our customers is a company that has been with JWP from the start, for 30 years now. The owner of this company is a charming elderly gentleman who has the physique of a young man and a crazy, untamed mind. I never know when he is going call me and exclaim: “I’ve got something new!”. Such moments give me great joy.
Back in the days when we didn’t use to have company mobile phones, I gave him my home number and I have learnt my lesson! Now, when he has a eureka moment, he calls me at all times, be it a holiday or a Sunday or a Saturday or late at night. He always says: “Mireczka, I just wanted to tell you what I’ve come up with…”. JWP has obtained several Polish and European patents for him, so this is a big deal, also for me personally.
I really value this working relationship, especially that a conversation with this client is a conversation with a man who lives in his own world, speaks his own language, makes notes on chocolate bar wrappings. He wakes up in the morning or in the middle of the night and scribbles on them. He arrives at the office after a five or six hour journey by train, takes out these wrappings (so I already know what he’s eaten and how much of it) and shows me his notes. He is a charming man, extremely creative; collaborating with him requires a lot of time and energy, but it is also great fun.
Clients come to JWP with various matters and they have different financial and time limitations. Sometimes there is no “chemistry” between us at the beginning; we speak our professional jargon and quite often it has nothing to do with what the clients hear, because the words “patent” or “invention” mean something altogether different to them than to us. The same goes for such terms as “novelty” or “level of invention”. What does the latter mean? It takes a while to figure out what it is for them and how to sell it (because writing a patent description is like handing something to someone on a plate). But then things work out smoothly.
I have also managed to solve impossible cases and weird problems before the Patent Office. I’ve sorted out other people’s blunders. Troubleshooting and an emergency rescue service, that’s me. I think that clients value us in particular for going out of our way to deliver what they want. They know they’re going to be well looked after. We act holistically when developing our strategy. When we do patent research and a report is drafted, we are able to say if the route chosen by the client is a dead end and or not – and of it is, we can suggest changing the criteria slightly or point at other, more promising options. There are more and more patents on the Polish market, and in order not to be accused of infringing someone else’s rights, you have to be aware of what has already been published.
Do you have any hobbies or interests?
One of my passions – one I cannot really fulfil as I don’t have a garden, just a balcony – are plants. Various kinds of plants, in particular those that are useful and fragrant. Sometimes tomatoes or strawberries, but most often flowers. When I was in lockdown during Covid-19 I decided to take care of the green area at the entrance to my building. Last year I dug some holes here and there and planted a few dozen tulip bulbs. Now I’m worried that frost could kill them, because green leaves are already beginning to emerge from the ground. I enjoy this kind of contact with wildlife. I also love all sorts of outdoor activities. I go sailing in the Masurian Lake District or on the Adriatic Sea whenever I can. I also go kayaking. Most often, though, I go for walks in the forest. I do Nordic walking and run. This is a different kind of running called slow jogging and it is a Japanese art of getting in touch with nature. It’s not about breaking records in timed runs, but about slowly getting to move your entire body. I am a member of a slow jogging group: we meet up and slow jog at a leisurely pace, chatting, gossiping or singing on the way. I also go biking and I am willing to take up any kind of crazy activity, if I am offered a chance to that by a member of some FB group. I am ready to go anywhere, just to be with people, human contact is absolutely vital for me. I like relaxing outside, in nature. I have not gone into a cave yet, I have not been winter swimming, but I have been trekking in the mountains, slalom skiing on Kasprowy Wierch, tramping in various strange and wild areas. Exploring new places, being amazed by what I see gives me a fresh outlook on life.
I notice a certain pattern here: you professionally deal with inventions, which is challenging in all sorts of ways, and, at the same time, you look for various challenges in your spare time…
Well, yes. I start my day with squats to warm up.
Ha, ha. Ok, I don’t… 😉 .
And, when there’s no alternative because the weather is terrible, I run up the stairs. I try not to get rusty.
Tell me then about your dreams. I guess you have plenty interesting ones.
I dream of cultivating gardens where I could have a controllable jungle. Planting something, watching it grow and bloom… Apart from that, I dream of holiday trips to sunny places because I miss the warmth.