When she heard that she had been selected as the recipient of one of Managing IP’s outstanding achievement awards, Margot Fröhlinger’s first thought was: “Do I really deserve this?”
She pondered for about 30 seconds, she says, before thinking: “Probably, yes!” though she modestly adds: “I don’t deserve it as an individual, but as a representative of a whole group of people who have been working very hard to bring this project to life.”
Fröhlinger was chosen for the award due to her many years of work at the European Commission and now at the EPO, where she is principal director patent law and multilateral affairs.
“I have been working on the Unitary Patent since 2007. I would describe the experience as saying that it was an enormous challenge. It was sometimes very hard but it was also a great, great experience because of the people I had the chance to meet and to work with,” she told Managing IP.
“I had my colleagues formerly in the European Commission and now my colleagues in the European Patent Office but most of all, I had to work with a broad variety of different people from the outside world. These were prominent patent judges and lawyers as well as patent professionals and industry representatives. It was a whole community developing around this project. People who were extremely dedicated, extremely committed to spend part of their leisure time, even weekends, contributing to this project and that was a great experience.”
Despite many obstacles along the way, this work culminated in a 2013 agreement between most EU member states to set up a Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court. The agreement ended decades of deadlock since a single EU patent system was first proposed. It is now expected to come into effect early next year.
“We had to be extremely creative to overcome all types of legal and political difficulties and to find solutions to seemingly unsurmountable problems. That is something that was hard at times, but also very enjoyable,” said Fröhlinger.
She also paid tribute to the “enthusiasm and commitment” to a European project at a time when, in many people’s eyes, the EU does not seem to be moving forward.
One lesson she learned, she said, was not to dwell on difficulties: “You should just think of getting things done and that is amazing what you can do if you are not looking for credit – if you are just trying to get things done.”
Since leaving the European Commission, Fröhlinger has been working at the EPO helping to set up the procedures for the Unitary Patent, and assisting the UPC Preparatory Committee. There is still much work to do before it is ready, she says: “The Unitary Patent is ready; we are trying very hard to help to bring the Unified Patent Court to life.”Fröhlinger was one of two outstanding awards winners at the Global Awards this year, the other being Professor Joachim Bornkamm. For details of previous outstanding achievement winners at the Global and North America Awards, see our Awards page.