Let’s go back to the past for a moment. Where did you come up with the idea for your career?
Already in high school, I was good at both mathematics and Polish, I regularly participated in Olympiads in both those subjects. Like many young people during high school and at the beginning of my studies, I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do. There is no denying that when I began my professional life IP and its importance was not talked about much in Poland, it was a niche. It was Janek Wierzchoń who persuaded me to come to JWP in Warsaw. He said he saw a place for me here.
How do you remember your early days at JWP?
It’s been 23 years. In the beginning, there were about a dozen people working here, and there was a wonderful, family atmosphere. Janek Wierzchoń dealt with patent cases, Magda Pietrosiuk with trademarks, and for the first months I worked everywhere, when it was necessary to assist people in the patent department, I assisted them, if it was necessary to replace one of the colleagues and issue invoices, I did that either. After three months, I began to work permanently with Magda on trademark and industrial design cases. That’s when I started my patent attorney training.
Today, more than a hundred people work at our JWP. We also have several partners. How do you reconcile differences of opinion and character in such a large firm like JWP?
This requires empathy as well as commitment and good relations with others. Everyone has a different sensitivity, our temperaments also naturally differ. I am a very energetic and dynamic person. Sometimes it is difficult for me to accept something, but I respect others and try, bearing in mind all kinds of differences, to approach different issues with reserve.
What do you like most in this profession?
On the one hand, I appreciate a contact with our clients because I am in my element then, and on the other hand, I am really fond of a strategic thinking. In the world of intellectual property, there is no routine. It is a profession where you don’t consider things in the short term, but in the long term. You need to put all the pieces together so that it is right for today and in a few years or so.
Many young lawyers and patent attorneys are wondering how to become a Partner in a large firm like JWP?
I came to JWP with the intention of achieving the highest possible position. At first, I didn’t aspire to the management structure, but from the very beginning I knew that I would take the patent attorney training, I would acquire professional qualifications and I would be good at what I do.
The initial period is primarily about learning how to make yourself useful in the organization and about developing professionally. Before my patent attorney training, I used my professional knowledge in practice a lot, and I think that the combination of these two elements helped me find my place. Among the fields of study that I have completed is management. Hence, I was also able to look at JWP and my work not only as a professional development, but also as a business. Besides, I did not refuse to do any job that benefited the firm, even the simplest one. I helped wherever the need occurred. I think it was noticed by the Partners at the time.
The turning point was my move to Wrocław. Then the shares were bought by Dorota Rzążewska, and I was given the mission of establishing a branch in Wrocław along with a very high degree of trust and independence. From the very beginning, the Wrocław branch functioned like JWP in JWP. The beginnings were and always are difficult. Before the market had developed, I invested some time in acquiring clients and presenting JWP in the region, and the rest of it in IP-related work. After about 2-3 years, the Wrocław branch began to acquire clients and fully function. For many years, I enjoyed great freedom to manage this part of JWP. Dorota then noticed my potential, character and ability to establish relationships with clients and offered me shares in the firm.
Are you a Patron?
Yes, I am. On the one hand, it is dictated by the simple desire to help a young person spread his or her wings, and on the other hand, the potential of young people may benefit the organization in the future. In the back of your mind, you usually see a place for these people in the firm. Such a person is Tomek Gawliczek. I noticed him when when he was still at university. As soon as the opportunity presented itself, he started helping at JWP. I took care of him, seeing his potential and possibilities.
Sometimes it is only a desire to help others. Such a situation is now happening with Basia, she’s a lovely girl who doesn’t work at JWP, but I’m her patron because I want to help her in her career and this life path she’s taken.
What message would you like to reach out to young people, what advice would you give them?
It is worth finding time for pleasure. 😊 Your position in life, your professional place, need not, or indeed should not, be the goal, but can be the perfect means to achieve your dreams and goals.
Could you tell us more about the most interesting case you have worked on.
One of the most surprising cases involved the I <3 NYC trademark, which is a symbol of New York. The New York State Department of State contacted me about the appearance of an application at the patent office. The I <3 Nysa trademark was submitted for registration by someone from Nysa. In this case, I wrote an objection based also on copyright, referring to the fact that the trademark was a part of the resources of MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York. When he saw the letter from the New York State Department of State, the gentleman from Nysa called me and said that he was sorry that he had not known that it was forbidden, because everyone used this trademark, in every city, at every stall, you could see badges with I <3 [name of the city or town]… The case was resolved quickly and amicably. Interestingly, Tomek Gawliczek, who was a patent attorney trainee at the patent office at that time, told me later that this case was presented to attorney trainees by an examiner from the patent office as an example of a perfectly written objection. We laughed because we had been working together on the part referring to copyright law. 😉
If the New York State acts to block the registration of a similar trademark, but does not mind using it… isn’t the trademark in danger of degenerating?
It is not that they do not mind. They are not in a position to cope with it physically. First of all, the problem is the funds required… How much money would you have to allocate to combat this phenomenon? In Poland, in Zakopane alone, you would have to engage a herd of lawyers and police officers.
How do you see the future of the IP industry, what’s there on the horizon?
For years, I have been observing a huge dissonance between the profession of a patent attorney as a “craftsman”, i.e. a person who simply drafts a patent description correctly, and a patent attorney as a “business partner and advisor”. At the moment, our clients need business partners and advisors, and not only a correct draft of a patent description or trademark application. It is a question of being able to think strategically, to look at the big picture and into the future. And as much as most professions see the threat in AI at this point, I only see it partially. Perhaps the new tools may deprive people of some of the work, but not that related to purely human, advisory, strategic elements, the linking of multiple threads. This is why I believe that the future of the profession lies in consultancy, in skilfully selecting those elements that should be protected effectively and efficiently, i.e. so that the client achieves a specific goal.
AI cannot replace certain qualities inherent in humans, such as brilliance, spark, the ability to associate and generate sometimes even absurd ideas, which at times, to everyone’s surprise, turn out to be the best. I very often find myself in such situations when working with Tomek Gawliczek. Tomek is a typical legalist looking through the prism of provisions of law, and I am a patent attorney with a fertile imagination. This is a matter of character and personality, something that artificial intelligence will never have.
Where is JWP today? We have been through quite a bit of change, in terms of structure, personnel… Do you feel calm and satisfied with the introduced changes today?
We are on the right track, and the second half of it is about finalising certain things. The most difficult part was the diagnostic process, since sometimes things come out in the course of it that we find difficult to deal with. We need to emotionally face and process this and, above all, find appropriate solutions.
I have completed the diagnostic stage, as well as the stages of finding and trying out some of the solutions. Once they have been fully implemented and operative, certain areas of JWP’s business will be finally put in order.
The plan for how JWP’s market-building and sales areas should work has emerged. Over time, we have found that certain factors have been implemented and are working, while others do not stand a chance in our team, so we have had to adapt to the realities. We manage JWP on an agile basis, the idea is to adapt the plan to the organization rather than the organization to the plan. Thanks to this approach, you can find a solution in the middle that will work and which everyone will feel good about.
All of the partners need to have a sense of a common path, one and the same, and rooting for it as we move towards creating a modern and thriving business.
What are your dreams?
Perhaps I will answer like a typical representative of Generation X. The work and professional environment is one of those elements of life where we spend most of our time, so I would like it to be stable, to continue to provide me with opportunity to meet interesting people, to pursue a variety of things that will be challenging, not only in terms of substance but also in terms of business. Because I really like it. 😊 I would like to make it to the top, but in small steps, so that everyone can keep up and have a sense of being together.
As far as my personal life is concerned, I like to play with my foster grandchildren and build various sand constructions with them on the beach, or from Lego blocks, which I really love. We are young grandparents and this allows us to enjoy our grandchildren and spend active time with them.
I would also like to swim with turtles in the Galapagos, it has always been my dream. However, I love all trips, those long and those really short ones, to the forest or even to my terrace to sit down and drink coffee… We all need such resets.