Sabine Agé of Hoyng Rokh Monegier in France talks about her career in IP law, diversity in the French legal market, most memorable client matter, and life outside work.
When did you decide to pursue a career in law?
During my teenage years I was fascinated by a friend of my parents who was a lawyer; she was passionate about what she was doing and fiercely independent.
Why did you choose IP law?
I fell into patent litigation by chance. I studied corporate, tax and contract law and trained with several partners from the same firm during law school in these areas as well as in competition and IP law. I ended up becoming an associate of the two partners practicing IP law, starting with soft IP before getting into patent litigation.
How did you get into the IP profession? Did you experience significant challenges?
At the time I started patent litigation, it was a field still mostly dominated by men. But times have changed, and a number of women from my generation were made partner, with no particular challenges as far as I'm concerned.
Why and/or how did you join your current firm?
I trained at Véron & Associés and became a partner there. We later merged with Hoyng Rokh Monegier in 2019.
What do you enjoy most about working for your firm?
Working with brilliant litigators and skilled scientists with a cross-cultural approach.
What makes your role/work fulfilling? Why do you enjoy IP work?
I love patent litigation because it is an area at the crossroads of technology and law (patent, civil, procedural, competition and international private law). I also like my managing role locally and at European level.
What career advice would you give to women interested in joining the IP profession and getting to your position?
In France, at least, the legal market has evolved and there is no limit to a woman’s career. The majority of our patent litigation team is made up of women, who are dedicated and passionate but also able to have fulfilling personal and family lives. Still, there is a lot of work to be done to encourage students from all social classes and cultures to enter the profession.
What is your most memorable piece of work as an IP practitioner?
I have fond memories of one of the first SEP cases in Europe back in the early 2000s. We were part of the European team and had to share our thoughts on the interpretation of the ETSI IPR policy. We had to dive into our civil law notes to come up with the concept of “stipulation pour autrui”.
Could you briefly share two interesting client matters you handled within the past 18 months?
We are currently handling patent cases involving wind turbines and solar panels, which demonstrate the importance of green technologies in our world today.
Did you find any part of the work you have just described uniquely challenging? If so, what were the challenges and how did you overcome them?
In all patent cases, distilling complex technology and making it understandable to the courts is a constant challenge. To achieve this, we work with in-house scientists and the client’s experts, and we prepare a lot of visual aids.
What qualities and skills are required to do your job?
A constant appetite for technology and a true team spirit.
What key principles do you follow or use to deliver the best possible outcome(s) for a client?
Understand the client’s goals from the outset, ensure consistency with simultaneous or previous proceedings before patent offices, and adapt the team based on the timeline and the needs of the case.
What if things don’t go or aren’t going according to plan, what keeps you going or motivated?
Without a doubt, the team I work with. No matter the hurdles, we are strong because we act together.
What is your favourite food and sport?
Any food cooked by my husband. I rediscovered Paris when I started cycling to and from the office and am dreaming of finding time to do Pilates again.
What is your favourite hobby?
Travelling the world. When I retire, the sky will be my limit!
Could you share a fun and interesting fact about you?
My dad was a surgeon and often explained his surgeries with drawings during family dinners. The apple never falls far from the tree!
Agé specialises in cross-border patent litigation, with particular expertise in matters relating to standard-essential patents in the electronics and telecommunications sectors. She qualified as a lawyer in 1994 and became a partner (Véron & Associés) in 2001. Read more about Agé here.
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