Five minutes with… Susanne Schmidt, Ampersand
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Five minutes with… Susanne Schmidt, Ampersand

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Susanne Schmidt discusses why trademarks are more than 'just a name' and why she would choose green farming as an alternative career

Welcome to the latest instalment of Managing IP’s ‘Five minutes with’ series, where we learn more about IP practitioners on a personal as well as a professional level. This time we have Susanne Schmidt, attorney at Ampersand in Germany

Someone asks you at a party what you do for a living. What do you say?

I help people and businesses protect and defend their names, brands, designs and ideas.

Talk us through a typical working day.

Typically, I check and respond to client emails in the morning, go through upcoming deadlines with my team and then proceed to my case work, which consists mainly of trademark and design prosecution, contentious matters before the EUIPO and German IP Office (DPMA) as well as litigation. During the day usually some organisational stuff comes up and I also need to find time to spend on my tasks for ECTA.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently involved in a design litigation case concerning a table light. It's interesting, because it is such an everyday product that everybody can relate to. Also on my desk is an analysis of a decision by the EUIPO Boards of Appeal in a trademark opposition case.

Does one big piece of work usually take priority or are you juggling multiple things?

I am always juggling several things each day, but when there is a big piece of work it is crucial for me to clear my desk in the morning and then just dive into the big case.

What is the most exciting aspect of your role and what is the most stressful?

That’s probably the same thing: when clients need my legal advice fast. Either because they are facing an interim injunction and have to react immediately, or when a competitor threatens to infring their rights, e.g. at a trade fair. It’s great to be able to help in such stressful situations.

So, interim proceedings are usually exciting and a lot of fun, but can be really stressful, too.

Tell us the key characteristics that make a successful IP lawyer/practitioner.

You need to be flexible and able to juggle many cases at a time, but also be prepared to dig deep into case law when it comes to more complex disputes. Also, you need negotiation skills as well as a reliable international network to prosecute and defend your client’s rights worldwide. This is impossible without a proper command of the English language.

What is the most common misconception about IP?

For persons that are not legally trained the most common misconception is that using someone else’s intangibles is not so bad as it is “just a name”. Usually, when you point out the importance of a brand like Coca-Cola is when people realise the power that can lie in “just a name”.

Also, people never stop claiming that they have a patent on their brand.

For lawyers, it is probably the fear that IP must be something “technical”. Little do they know that IP is the most exciting playground for creative solutions in an international environment, where you can be playful with language and learn about all kinds of products and technologies that you may never have dreamed of being involved with.

What or who inspires you?

The many women in IP who have opened this field of law to their younger colleagues and have contributed to making it an open and diverse surrounding.

If you weren’t in IP, what would you be doing?

In law, probably corporate law where you can help shape and build the structure needed to attain a client’s economic goals.

Outside of law I would probably be doing something with foodstuffs (cooking or engaging in green farming).

Any advice you would give your younger self?

Start to build your professional network on day one of your career. Don’t wait for others to offer things to you, ask for them.

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