Benjamin Hoffmann

Benjamin Hoffmann

Partner - Patent Attorney

What was your first ever job?

I worked for a software company during my school holidays testing updates and new product functionality.

How did you get involved in intellectual property and what first attracted you to the field?

While at university, I had an intern placement at Proctor and Gamble, which produces a wide range of consumer products. I worked in the laundry division, and my project involved investigating a competitor product to try and work out what type of chemistry they had used in their coating and whether it could be applied to the laundry detergent systems Proctor and Gamble were making. As part of the work, I had to read a number of patents and devise some experiments to test the products that we had obtained. I saw first-hand that patents sat at the nexus of technology and law, and I thought it looked like an interesting area to pursue as a career.

When did you join Potter Clarkson and why?

I joined Potter Clarkson in August 2018 to set up the Copenhagen office. I was living in Denmark and working for another firm in the region, and the opportunity to join Potter Clarkson looked like an exciting challenge. 

What is your area of speciality and why did you choose it?

My main practice area is opposition/appeal proceedings at the EPO. The majority of my clients are large pharmaceutical/chemical companies who trust me to handle their contentious work when one of their patents gets opposed, or if they wish to challenge the validity of a competitor’s patent.

I have a background in chemistry, and during the early part of my career I worked mainly with large US corporate clients looking after their portfolios in Europe. This allowed me to gain experience with a wide range of issues which may come up under EPO practice. A number of the technologies were in highly competitive spaces, which led to me being involved with a high number of oppositions even at an early stage in my career. It seems as though it has never really slowed down from there!

What does a typical day in your role entail and what do you most enjoy about it/find most challenging?

I am responsible for the offices we have in Copenhagen, Aarhus and Lund, which encompasses the welfare of the staff we employ, the infrastructure and logistics of how the offices are set up, as well as how the offices integrate into the wider firm. There are cultural differences between Scandinavian firms and UK firms, as well as differences in how the firms organise workflows and handle docketing. When I joined Potter Clarkson, its only staffed office had been the Nottingham office, and it was largely paper based. We have now transitioned into a cloud-based docketing system, allowing full integration between the offices. This is still a work in progress, and a large amount of my time is spent optimising and improving the internal routines and infrastructure that we have.

My typical day will therefore always involve some aspect of improving the internal processes and integration within the firm, which could involve discussing with the local team about challenges we are facing or working with the support staff from our Nottingham office to resolve any issues we may have.

I am lucky that I also have an exciting and diverse range of clients, so I will always find myself doing some case work through a typical day. I work with a range of the junior staff, so that could involve discussing cases with them, or more often than not working on some opposition submissions or preparing for my next oral proceedings.

What has been the highlight of your career at Potter Clarkson so far?

Convincing the Nottingham office to obtain a better coffee machine! Coffee is very important in Scandinavia, and it is vital for proper integration of our Scandinavian staff to have good coffee when we visit the Nottingham office.

In addition to this, I have been lucky enough to be involved with a very significant and high value case for an existing client of Potter Clarkson. The case was at appeal level, where the client trusted me to present the case to the board and we successfully defended the appeal. I think it is humbling that clients trust Potter Clarkson with cases like this one, and it is a privilege to be involved.

What advice would you give anyone looking to enter the field?

To keep in mind that it is a hugely diverse and varied job. Even within Potter Clarkson, no two attorneys have exactly the same role. It can be so dependent on the clients you are working with, as well as the internal responsibilities that you have within the firm. Our role as attorneys in Potter Clarkson is also very different from the attorneys working in house at our clients. This means as a career, there are always new things to learn and new opportunities ahead. It also means though that there is a lot to learn at the start, so be prepared for a long period of training at the beginning!