Ian is a partner and patent attorney with experience managing large international IP portfolios, running Australian and European oppositions, setting IP policy and strategy and drafting patent applications in a worldwide framework.
In 2013, my wife and I quit our jobs to travel around Australia with a 4x4 and a camper trailer, with no jobs to come back to. We'd moved to Australia from the UK five years earlier with the intention of exploring the country, but had barely left St Kilda since arriving. It's very easy to make plans and have life get in the way of them. This decision was our way of hitting pause on life to make sure those plans didn’t just become regrets later on.
It turns out that taking that leap into the unknown opened up many more opportunities for me than staying put ever could have, including bringing me here to Allens. A client invited me to get in touch when I returned from my adventure, which I did. It was in that role I came to work with Allens and eventually ended up here.
Travelling around Australia I'd sometimes get requests from contacts to help them out on some small piece of IP advice. I'd bash it out from a camp chair in my shorts and thongs – so you might say I had some good training for working in the current COVID crisis. The way we've all been working lately is another reminder to me of the importance of sometimes hitting pause and reconnecting with those plans you'd always hoped to make a reality 'one day'.
I've taken the opportunity to commit to reading – or in most cases for this list, re-reading – books which strike a chord. Each have either a connection to me in some way or are an inspiring or exceptional story of adversity or tragedy.
Able by Dylan Alcott – This is the story of wheelchair basketball and tennis Paralympian Dylan Alcott. Dylan is also a radio host and his slot on Triple J was how I got to know him, without originally knowing of his disability. This was a Christmas present which was well chosen but the pandemic allowed me to properly turn my time to read it. It is a genuinely inspiring story of a person who is not the least bit limited by being a paraplegic.
Kinglake-350 by Adrian Hyland – the story of Roger Wood, police call sign Kinglake-350, and the Black Saturday fire in February 2009. My wife and I arrived in Australia in October 2008 and have very clear memories of sweltering in St Kilda that day and watching the approaching southerly bluster which gave an immediate 15C drop in air temperature and huge relief to our comfort levels. Little did we know at the time the devastation that southerly change would cause to the north of Melbourne. This book is an incredible telling of that story from someone in the midst of the fire.
Fatal Storm by Rob Mundle – The Sydney to Hobart yacht race is infamous, in yacht racing circles at least, as the offshore race that every sailor wants to complete in and the 1998 Sydney Hobart is infamous for a terrible storm that ravaged the race fleet as they reached Bass Strait. As a sailor that has competed in this race, this book is a stark reminder of the preparation required and risks involved sailing in these waters.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – This book doesn't need much of an introduction from me, but was one I read at school and struck a particularly strong chord.
The Exceptional Brain and How it Changed the World by Robert Kaplan – This book was lent to me by a friend perhaps five years ago, and, despite it being exactly the type of book I love to read, has gathered dust. It was, much as expected, an extremely interesting read and an insight into the working of the brain.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place (127 Hours) by Aron Ralston – The autobiography of climber Aron Ralston, who was forced to self-amputate his arm after being trapped by a boulder. I'm not suggesting any analogies with COVID isolation, but it is a great read.
My routine in full-time work-from-home mode is a little different than usual.
0600 My eldest son, Lewis, will interrupt my sleep in some manner, usually by attacking me with his fluffy rabbit. My youngest son, Mackie, is never far behind, so I grab them both and try and give my wife some additional sleep time. Coffee on, a bit of play time with boys before breakfast. Emails and appointments for that day checked (any urgent issues or first-up meetings?) before getting the boys dressed and out the door, ostensibly to walk the dog but this also factors as quality time with the boys or to chat with my wife.
0845 Kiss the family goodbye and head off to work. Three seconds' walk to the bungalow in the back garden and I'm sat in front of my desk and logging in. Whilst this is happening I am thinking about what I want and need to achieve that day. I use MS OneNote to maintain a long term and short term to-do list, so I'll review and update those lists – I'm a digital person as much as possible and try to avoid having to print or write in notepads.
0900 VC is the new coffee run, so I call around and check in with my team. In particular, where we are placed with various clients' matters and making sure we are all clear what we're trying to achieve this week, especially with the challenges of working at home.
0930 First task of the day is to review submissions from the other side on a Patent Opposition before a hearing, tomorrow, to be held by VC. We have a call early tomorrow morning before the hearing with the barrister to update him with any further issues. I am taking a detailed technical look at the issues, as my colleague is running the matter with the barrister and I have been overseeing the work, so I'm confident the legal issues are in hand. However, this particular matter relates to a client that I have worked with for nearly 12 years and have an intimate technical knowledge of the subject matter, so I can add a little above the usual patent attorney insight.
1100 I am running a project implementing a new Intellectual Property software system for the Patent and Trade Mark practice and we have a catch-up meeting this morning to monitor progress, involving both the vendor but also key members of the Allens IT and Finance teams. Our internal project manager is doing a great job at keeping our vendor aligned with their commitments and identifying issues as they arise. This software project is a key part of transforming the Patent and Trade Mark Attorney practice and providing less administrative burden for all staff in an area of law which is driven by deadlines and many smaller, but ongoing, matters. We also have longer-term goals of automation of various purely administrative tasks and this software is a big enabler for this. It is immensely refreshing to be involved in a project which sits across different departments in Allens and see the commitment to deliver the best solution for our work. We remain on track at this early stage and have lots of interesting challenges to navigate in the coming months.
1200 Time for a little bit of a change of pace and I log on to a Zoom fitness class organised by the Melbourne Sports and Wellbeing Committee. It's an hour class but I'm showing my age and make the excuse that I need to shower and eat before going back to work but really I'm whacked!
1300 Another VC, but this time with a client. It's great that VC has become the new normal as my client is based in Adelaide with their production operations in Perth and I'm in Melbourne. We have been happy to use phone calls, and the odd face to face when I've been in Perth, but VC allows for a different 'routine' engagement experience and the chance to share screens to talk through the relevant documents. In this case, the client has an improvement to one of their existing inventions and we chat through the differences, what benefits that brings to them and consider and appropriate protection strategy. In this case, it is clear that a patent application is the best way forward so we make some commitments on the next steps. I like the process of drafting a patent application from the beginning, especially a technically challenging one such as this, so I am relishing the opportunity. We quickly discuss some other aspects of the clients IP portfolio and I finalise my notes.
1600 I am last on to present at a digital health startup program which Allens supports. My topic is, unsurprisingly, Intellectual Property, but having worked within a government investment vehicle and in-house in the past, I want to get across more than the '101' of IP. My presentation is aimed at ensuring the attendees have thought about, at an early stage, how they can use IP to their benefit and set up an appropriate strategy to safeguard what they see to be their most important intellectual assets. Its great that these events have continued in the COVID-19 world through VC and it helps me be more efficient, as I don't have to travel to present!
1700 I commute back to the house and my wife and I have an early dinner with our boys before we move into the bedtime routine of baths, books and bed (as well as two cartoons for the oldest). This period can be hectic but is incredibly enjoyable.
1930 I jump back on the laptop and get started on the patent application draft that I had been instructed on earlier that day. I don't usually get the opportunity to get to a piece of work so quickly, but this one is something I find very interesting and has a little bit of urgency, coupled with the discussion being fresh in my mind from earlier in the day.
2030 Time for some time with my wife. I make tea for us and we discuss our days before relaxing in front of the TV. This time we're streaming an episode of Mystery Road, an ABC miniseries.
2130 I've been attempting to get through some books over this period, so I pick up the book I'm currently reading (in this case re-reading) Fatal Storm, the story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.