Andreas Hoffmann is IP Director at Finnish mining-equipment giant Metso Outotec – a key Papula-Nevinpat customer. He spoke about his team’s special approach to managing a global network of patent attorneys at Papula-Nevinpat’s IP summit held in October 2022.
Hoffmann is an engineer by education who joined Metso in 2004, more than 15 years before it would merge with Outotec. After just a year at the company he was drawn into an IP role and asked to manage a relationship with a local patent attorney firm. He was soon handling similar relationships across multiple countries.
Metso Outotec is now a EUR 4.2 billion revenue company with 15,000 employees and operations in 50 countries. It has R&D in 30 locations.
“Being so widely spread around the world means we deal with many situations and differences when it comes to managing inventions, handling local legislation, and protecting our IP rights. One size does not fit all,” says Hoffmann. “Business needs differ across our organization, and by observing local legislation we can adapt to these varied needs.”
Cooperating towards the same goal
The Metso Outotec segment that Hoffmann represents – minerals processing – accounts for some 60% of the company’s sales. Just five in-house IP professionals support this part of the business.
Rather than managing its IP affairs centrally from Helsinki, the company has appointed some 10 law firms around the world that are each expert in their own jurisdiction. The firms are encouraged to work with one other in Metso Outotec’s best interests, and not only to take instructions from the company’s in-house IP team.
“This is different to how firms normally set up their IP organizations. But the fact is that the opinions of a European patent attorney have very little bearing on the Chilean jurisdiction, for example,” says Hoffmann.
“IP has no purpose other than to support business. If you only have IP – without any kind of commercialization behind it – it has no value. So if you don’t look at things from the local perspective, you get a picture of the world where you don’t optimise the commercial benefits.”
Open communication is key
Hoffmann says the model has been highly successful, creating a tight network of IP professionals who work well together anywhere in the world.
“We cooperate as a team independent of the corporate boundaries between us,” he says. “Not all law firms or individual attorneys are comfortable fitting into this equation, so we look for those who enjoy thinking for themselves and like working with our technology. Every team member should dare to expand their comfort zone in terms of dealing with IP matters.”
Feedback on the model from Metso Outotec’s attorney partners is overwhelmingly positive. Team members are clear on their expected tasks and appreciative of a collaborative working environment with a steep learning curve.
“The only way we can work together like this is through trust. You have to love human interactions and be prepared to communicate, communicate, and communicate,” says Hoffmann.