NLO Fortify no. 7 2017/2018
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no. 7 | volume 5 | fall/winter 2018


2018 is a special year as it’s the year NLO celebrates its 130th anniversary. Over all those years, there’s one specific element that really forms the core of our firm; our people. Professionals who put all their effort in helping clients in any way they can. However, they are far more than IP professionals. We would like to give you some insight in the real people behind NLO. We proudly introduce to you some of our colleagues.

Barend Bouma

‘When I discover something interesting, I want to know all about it’

Barend Bouma is a Dutch and European Patent Attorney at NLO in Ede

Barend Bouma

“I became politically aware when I was still quite young. I’m also someone who’s always found it hard to accept injustice. For example, knowing that people in some countries are oppressed, such as dissidents in the former East Germany and the population of North Korea today. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I went on a study week to the former GDR. Standing on top of the ‘Iron Curtain’ as a 17-year-old made a big impression on me and further increased my interest in the position of ordinary citizens during the Cold War. The ideological clash between capitalism and communism and the impact this has had on the respective populations has also made me very interested in North and South Korea, whose relationship is an ongoing legacy of the Cold War, only now with key roles for China, Japan and the United States.”

When I discover something interesting, I want to know all about it. That applies to my work too. When I completed my degree, I did a PhD and then spent many years working as a researcher. My main interest was the practical applicability of my research, so I eventually got together with experienced business men to start a business, working partly as an inventor. That brought me into contact with patents, an area I found I enjoyed. So in 2013 I became a trainee with NLO.

Obviously I’m very interested in books that describe inventions and patents in the former GDR and North Korea, where ownership of intellectual property is far from straightforward. Although I’m not particularly interested in collecting them per se, I’ve amassed quite a library! I’m especially keen on documents and items of historic interest, such as a section of barbed wire from the Korean border, chunks of the Berlin Wall, the draft of an agreement between the former GDR and North-Korea, or vases from North Korea – imported into Europe through the GDR. Whenever I’m on holiday in Germany, I always check to see if there are any second-hand book sales…

I do some travelling for NLO, but that’s just part of the job. More important to me than long-distance trips is having conversations, professional and private. About strategy, for example, with inventors and heads of business; and with representatives of governments and NGOs. Not just online but also during network meetings or conferences. I once got to meet the very last Dutch ambassador to East Berlin, which was fascinating!

All these interesting conversations are what I still find most compelling about working as a patent attorney. Especially since, through them, you can really help companies move forward, either by encouraging business owners to come up with ideas or by putting them in touch with the right people in your network. That way, I hope that as a patent attorney I can provide some added value.”

Dyana Akker

‘Maintaining an overview of the whole process and carefully checking that everything fits is satisfactory’

Dyana Akker is a Recordals Officer at NLO in The Hague

Dyana Akker

“I never thought I’d end up in an office job; sitting at a desk all day really isn’t my thing. But when I had trouble finding a job in the tourism sector, which is what I’d trained for, I took a job as a secretary at a bank. It was surprisingly enjoyable, but after eight years I decided to change direction. A restructuring at the bank gave me the opportunity to think about what I wanted to do next.

Two of my girlfriends had a long-standing hobby making miniature tableaux. When I left the bank, I finally had time to try it out for myself. Creating your own world, where everything’s perfectly colour-coordinated, soon proved to be the aspect I enjoyed most. I do the same in my own house and garden: if I’ve got red flowers I’ll have red seat cushions too, and preferably also a matching wood stain. When you’re creating a miniature world, there are no boundaries; all you need is a bit of creativity. Recently, for instance, I made a mini-shopping basket from a Nespresso capsule. And an eye-drop pipette got a second life as a tiny shampoo bottle for a miniature bathroom.

When I’d been at home for about a year, I decided to start looking for another job. By then I knew I wanted to go more towards the clerical side of things, and in 2010 I joined NLO’s legal back office. Last year the organisation established a new recordals department, and that was an exciting new step for me. Whereas before I’d only seen the final stage of a process, I now deal with all the stages of registering changes to patents. Like miniature scene-making, it’s precise work: maintaining an overview of the entire process and carefully checking that everything fits and is satisfactory.

I now work at NLO four days a week and spend Tuesday and Thursday afternoons doing craftwork with my girlfriends. We each have our own specialities; I enjoy doing meticulous, fiddly work, such as making a tiny geranium from small pieces of silk. For me, that’s serious relaxation! Although there are times when I’d like to chuck the whole thing out the window. Sometimes nothing seems to go right, just the same as at work. Then you simply have to take a break and go back to it later.

Two years ago I took a Christmas scene with me to work to decorate the office. One of my colleagues asked if I could insert a tiny NLO laptop into the scene. I gave it some thought and hit on the idea of cutting it out of a desk calendar, complete with a minute keyboard and NLO logo. It took a while for people to notice it, but eventually they did.”

Satoru Sakai

‘How to transfer knowledge remains a tricky thing’

Satoru Sakai is a Trainee Patent Attorney at NLO in Eindhoven

Satoru Sakai

“I grew up in Eindhoven and went to the swimming pool every week. Even then, I adored being underwater: it’s a completely peaceful and silent world. When our swimming lessons were over, we were followed by a group of divers. I remember thinking it looked fun, but decided to stick with competitive swimming.

After high school, I went to Scotland, where I studied physics and earned my PhD. I returned to the Netherlands in 2013 and started work at Eindhoven University of Technology, where I also took a diving course and immediately got hooked. Even more than with ordinary swimming, diving really immerses you in a silent world and forces you to rely entirely on yourself, especially when you swim out into the open water for the first time: you can hardly see a thing and are completely dependent on your depth and pressure gauges. I’ve now progressed to the level of trainee dive-master and regularly oversee lessons. Being with the participants often reminds me of how excited I was before making my first dive.

I think teaching is in my blood. My mother was a teacher and when I was doing my PhD in Scotland I regularly did tutorials with the undergraduates. The transfer of knowledge at NLO also fascinates me. How to get across the specific knowledge you have as effectively as possible in order to achieve your goal.

However, I also think it’s vital to keep on acquiring new knowledge yourself. As a trainee, I’m currently learning about Dutch and EU patent law, for example. When you’re doing research you’re primarily searching for the answers yourself, whereas in the patent business your main job is to try and explain why certain answers are right. It’s less black and white. I’m also given the opportunity to keep on immersing myself in new subjects, and working in a commercial environment is another new experience.

Obviously a new job and training take up a lot of time, but I’ll always carry on making time for diving. I do it almost every weekend and also try to spend a week diving abroad each year, where there are many new underwater worlds for me to discover. I like to have a goal when I’m on these trips; it needn’t be a beautiful coral or an unusual species of fish. For instance, I’m keen to do another dive in Scapa Flow, a bay in Scotland where there are some unusual shipwrecks on the seabed. My favourite destinations are authentic places with a story to tell. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia was wonderful, but using your knowledge and experience to go to the aid of a novice diver in the unpredictable seas off the coast of Zeeland province is just as satisfying.”

Andrea Strijbos

‘Two completely different worlds that complement one another’

Andrea Strijbos is Formalities Officer at NLO in The Hague

Andrea Strijbos

“I’m fascinated by cultural differences and how people work together. My job at NLO gives me all that. I support patent attorneys, which brings me into contact with agents and clients all over the world. It’s responsible and precise work, given the strict deadlines and major interests at stake. There is no room for errors and clients everywhere are becoming more demanding. I thrive on that pressure, but as soon as I walk out of the office I can leave it all behind me. Especially now that I’ve had a baby son; he’s obviously become my number one priority.

A couple of years ago I was looking for a new challenge. My personal life and career where on track and I was keen to find a new outlet. I realised that being in such a position was something of a privilege, so I decided to look for volunteer work. I wanted to ‘give back’, and looked at different types of vacancies for voluntary work. This is how I ended up working for the animal rescue centre in Vlaardingen, where you’ll now find me every Saturday morning, cleaning out cages, administering medicines and above all cuddling and playing with the animals. Just giving them some love, really.

To be honest, before I started work there I had some preconceptions about the kind of people who worked in animal rescue centres. I expected them to be older, with too much time on their hands. But many are young and highly sociable. They’re all very different, but share the same motives and outlook on life. Animals don’t judge you, they accept you as you are, which is something we all appreciate. We volunteers also have lots of fun together.

And because it’s such a different world to where I work, it’s a great counterbalance to my regular job. At the rescue centre, you never think about yourself. I’ve always been struck by the fact that it’s the people who have the least who often do the most for others. For instance, someone who’s on a basic income will frequently spend a lot on providing help for animals in need.

This makes it easier for me to put situations at work into perspective. We should count ourselves lucky, I often think. I’m glad to say that I’ve got some great colleagues. That, together with the excitement and dynamic environment I find at NLO, makes working there very interesting. So although my work and hobby represent completely different worlds, I leave my house in the morning looking forward to both.”

Fred van Veen

‘My parents always taught me to do my best’

Fred van Veen is Renewals Coordinator at NLO in The Hague

Fred van Veen

“I come from a real working-class family; when after finishing junior secondary school I said I didn’t want to carry on in formal education, my parents said OK but they demanded that I should look for a job straight-away. So I went to the job centre on the Monday, got an interview on the Wednesday and reported to work at NLO on the Thursday. But I also had to complete my final paper round that month. My mother insisted on it; I was always taught to do my best and finish whatever I’d started.

As NLO’s youngest post-boy, I took round the post and looked up files for people. A couple of years later a vacancy arose in the renewal fees department, so I moved across and am still there to this day. Although more and more tasks are being automated, you’ve got to be constantly on the ball in this job, weeding out incorrect assumptions and thinking proactively with the client so they don’t miss any opportunities. That can give you a satisfied client, but it can also occasionally lead to stressful situations.

My chief relaxation comes from playing softball. After 30 years of playing and coaching, I still get a real kick from the psychological challenge of ‘1 against 9’ and the skill and speed of pitching. At the moment I’m mentoring a pitcher whose technique is brilliant. I occasionally wonder what he could achieve if he had the same drive as I had; he’s very laid-back about his talent... Though to be fair, I wouldn’t describe myself as fanatical. I set high standards, but only apply them to myself. I once spent a whole year coaching an extremely unpromising girls’ softball team. We lost every match but made up for it by having the greatest fun. As a result, we all had a fantastic season!

I’m a great advocate of team sports; they teach you how to work together and motivate each other. In the late 1990s I was made team coordinator at NLO, which is also like being a kind of coach. Over the years, I’ve learned that you have to make allowances for different personalities. And ensure that you run a happy office. I take my work very seriously, but you’ve got to have fun now and then. For instance, by organising an extra-curricular activity such as running a betting pool on the World Cup. A couple of championships ago, one of the managers had the idea of linking each department to one of the competing countries. We ended up cheering the England team with bowler hats on, and the accounts department supported the French team by playing boules. That’s the kind of thing I really enjoy. So it’s not surprising I’ve stayed at NLO for as long as I have!”

Erika Ermens

‘Work situations can provide me with good material for a performance’

Erika Ermens is a Formalities Officer at NLO in Eindhoven

Erika Ermens

“I grew up in a small village in the country, where I got involved in all kinds of activities to make life a bit more interesting, from the church choir to jazz ballet. I still vividly remember when I was eight and was standing in the wings waiting to take part in a real-live performance for the very first time: a dance routine in the village hall. That feeling of having to ‘go on’, a mixture of nerves and the delicious feeling of having something to focus on. It was wonderful, although I was always thought of as a rather shy and quiet girl. So I was amazed when they asked me to perform at the end-of-year cabaret at my secondary school.

When I’d finished my education I began working as a policy researcher in Leiden. The work was pleasant enough but I really felt like a square peg in a round hole. My colleagues were all pretty intense and I simply lacked their ambition. Meanwhile, I’d joined an operetta club, where I worked on a ‘serious’ production for the first time. We eventually performed to a packed house in Rijswijk. It was the incentive I’d been waiting for: I handed in my notice, enrolled myself in a cabaret school and took a part-time job with NLO.

Theatre and patents: they’re worlds apart, but actually the combination works quite well. The atmosphere in the NLO office is very informal and there are always interesting people around, often from different cultures. That appeals to me since I’m a real people-watcher. I enjoy seeing what makes them tick and how they differ. Sometimes they provide me with interesting material for my performances. For instance, you can exaggerate some of the characteristics of people you work with closely: that once led to a mildly absurdist performance about a person taking out their frustration on a stapler.

There have been times when I seriously considered going into the theatre full-time. But I’d have to rely on doing commercial entertainment to make a living; frankly I’d rather be in a good amateur production. I think the most important thing is to continue developing myself. And although I find the patent business a little dry, that’s precisely what I’ve managed to achieve at NLO. I’m trusted to do things in my own way and have gained new tasks over the years, which regularly brings me into contact with new people and new characters.

I might still come across as fairly shy or quiet to people who’ve only just met me, and I’ve learned to exploit this contrast during my training as an actor. For instance, when I meet very serious or excessively polite people I tend to think there’s an underlying reason for it. I enjoy slightly confounding people’s expectations.”

Marc Krisman

‘I’m sometimes amazed at the lack of historical awareness’

Marc Krisman is Manager Business Development at NLO in The Hague

Marc Krisman

“I joined NLO’s accounting department in 1981 after having studied French for a year. The European Patent Office had just been established and was generating a large volume of international correspondence. The other thing I particularly remember from that time is mountains of paper. Before long, I’d found ways of doing things more efficiently, such as putting all the correspondence from one client in a single envelope; that was already a major step forward. Eventually I came to manage the department and grew with the organisation. We became increasingly client-focused, went digital and had to start working more transparently, partly due to the rise of the internet. I organised the first PR activities and carried on with them until they were professionalised into an independent department. We also launched a business development unit to come up with new services; that’s now staffed by a three-man team.

And about nine years ago, we switched to a fully paperless office. When we moved to new offices in The Hague a couple of years later, we came across 27 moving boxes full of old documents. Among them I found an account of how four NLO staff were killed in an Allied bombing raid on the nearby offices at Kleykamp in the Second World War. The building had been commandeered by the Germans, and the raid was carried out by the RAF at the request of the Dutch Resistance.

In books on the subject, I read about a certain Jaap who’d worked in the Kleykamp building and passed strategic information to the ‘bombing committee’ of the Dutch government in exile in England. Jaap himself was killed in the raid he helped to bring about, and I’m now on a mission to prove he didn’t die in vain. I’ve assembled an entire archive about the raid, and even located the models the RAF used to plan it. And when I attended a trademark conference in Seattle recently, I took the opportunity to visit a descendant of Jaap’s in Canada. Through him, I finally got hold of a photo of our hero. All that’s now missing is the document he smuggled to England - the final proof of his heroic deed - which I’m still searching for. When it comes to hunting for information, I can be very determined. I once spent years looking for a particular pressing to add to my record collection!

Because the work is so varied, I reckon there are still plenty of challenges ahead for me at NLO. Email, for example, will become less and less important, and that will be an interesting development. Sometimes, though, I’m amazed by the lack of historical awareness among my colleagues. Not just about events that took place in the war, like the one I’ve just described, but also about how things change. Younger colleagues who’ve recently joined the organisation think it’s all a bit old-fashioned. But back in the 1980s you couldn’t have foreseen the development of the paperless organisation and large open-plan offices.”

Maarten Ketelaars

‘Applying all your knowledge and experience under constantly changing circumstances’

Maarten Ketelaars is Partner & Dutch and European patent attorney at NLO in Ede

Maarten Ketelaars

“When I was studying electrical engineering in Eindhoven, I joined the university gliding club and went on a week-long gliding camp, where I was immediately bitten by the bug. All these years later, I still think the extra dimension it adds and the fact that you can spend hours soaring entirely on thermal uplifts is amazing!

I spent two-and-a-half years flying regularly, but then I became too busy. I had to do my military service, moved in with my partner and got my first job with the Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR) in Amsterdam. Thanks to the challenging projects and opportunities for travel it gave me, it was a highly educational time, but after seven years I felt it was time for something new. I was attracted to a job vacancy I saw at NLO, even though I’d never been particularly interested in the patent industry up until then. Advanced technical knowledge, an ability to express it in language, and a constantly changing legal framework: it looked an interesting combination. I also like being seen as an expert and trusted third party: being appreciated by clients is a key driver for me.

Getting my career off the ground and starting a family pushed gliding further and further into the background; making time for my family was already enough of a challenge. But the itch remained, so when my daughter was a bit older i joined the Amsterdamsche Club voor Zweefvliegen in 2005. And when I was offered the chance to buy a share in a glider, it didn’t take me long to make up my mind!

When you’re in a glider you’ve got to be constantly on the ball. You have to keep checking the weather and watching out for other airspace users and you’ve got to remember the relevant rules and regulations. It means you can’t think about anything else when you’re up there. Above all, gliding is a real club sport: you need a team to get you up in the air, and afterwards we all relax together and exchange stories about our flying experiences. I also enjoy going to the movies with my family, but when I’m watching the screen my thoughts can still drift towards work. That never happens when I’m out for a day’s flying, so for me that’s the ultimate relaxation.

Although having a share in your own plane gives you the freedom to go up whenever you want, the tricky bit is to find time to do it. Especially as I’m a partner in the company and am committed to NLO’s clients and employees 24/7. I’m also spending time on our office in Ede, which is being refurbished this year. And I sit on a number of internal and external committees. But I’m happy to do it all if it satisfies our clients’ needs. Applying all your knowledge and experience under constantly changing circumstances: in that respect, work and gliding are very similar.”