‘The best thing is finding out what technology people have been secretly developing’


Nic Ferrar is patent attorney and business development director at Adamson Jones IP. He qualified as a Patent Attorney in 2007 and has handled a wide variety of technical subject matter across a number of engineering disciplines, including aerospace, manufacturing, power and HVAC, as well as more general consumer goods.

Nic also maintains a strong interest in IP protection for software-related innovations and has successfully prosecuted a number of patent applications in fields including design, analysis, control, diagnostics and health monitoring. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and a member of the Institute’s Computer Technology Committee, and a member of the European Patents Institute.

Getting the heads-up on new tech excites me. Without a doubt, the best thing about my job is finding out what technology people have been secretly developing. As patent attorneys, we are often the first to be informed about our clients’ technical developments and it is always a privilege to become involved in their plans early on. We often also pick up some real insight into how different industries tick.

We’re looking to broaden our horizons. The biggest opportunity for us is to grow our geographical reach, both nationally and internationally, based on our technical specialisms. Patent attorneys all have technical backgrounds and we work individually within our areas of technical specialism. Our firm has specific expertise in the fields of medical devices, engineering & manufacturing technology, pharmaceuticals & healthcare, biotechnology and software/electronics. Historically, clients have often wanted to use a local patent attorney. However, more recently, we are seeing that the trend is for companies to prioritise finding a patent attorney that has the right technical background to be able to handle their technology. The recent surge in adoption of remote working practices will hopefully mean that companies are comfortable selecting the right attorney for them, even if they are not located nearby.

It’s good to share. One of the key changes is the availability of technology and information sharing in the IP protection process. There have been attempts to replace certain manual steps of the process with software solutions. This has resulted in much better patent searching and investigation tools but the results of using software to replace human understanding and interpretation of patent documents have so far been of questionable benefit. Information sharing through online resources has provided some clearer benefits. For example, when an examiner at the European Patent Office examines a patent application, he/she can look at the status of that same patent application in other countries, such as in the US, China or anywhere else the patent application was filed. This can sometimes lead to a more efficient and coordinated international patent application procedure, where different countries handle patent applications within similar timeframes and with similar outcomes.

There is no substitute for taking care. Our motto is ‘Taking care of your IP’. Our work involves the interface between complex technology and complex law. There is often significant uncertainty and it takes detailed analysis and time to resolve these complexities to provide our clients with clear legal solutions. Getting something right is never an accident in our line of work.

A single piece of property has very different value to different buyers. I have seen some exceptional technology be deemed worthless because the owner did not have the financial backing to make the technology a success. Conversely I have seen technology of questionable merit lead to significant commercial success because it had the right backing.

I take inspiration from everywhere. I can’t pretend there is any one person that has inspired me. Everyone I work with has some kind of influence on how I approach my own work. Outside of my family, friends and colleagues, inspiration mainly comes from individuals involved in sport and art. Swimmers like Ian Thorpe and Rebecca Adlington are motivational because they demonstrate just how much dedication an individual can give to their sport. Artists who doggedly pursue their own agenda also provide a source of inspiration for me. I have a particular soft spot for the painters Francis Bacon and Philip Guston for that reason. It is a very brave thing to express yourself so openly for the world to critique.

Swimming against the tide… Open water swimming has become a bit of a passion over the last couple of years. My wife and kids are far better swimmers than I am but, since the pools closed during lockdown, it has become less about training and more about enjoying the whole experience of swimming. I have converted two of my children to open water swimming so far but I am still trying to convince my wife and the other two.


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