This interview is part of our new FBCC Member Series, where we introduce our member companies to the network. This time we interviewed Simon Portman, the Managing Associate at our Corporate Member company Marks & Clerk.
How would you describe your company?
Marks & Clark is a leading firm of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys with offices in the UK, mainland Europe, Canada, and Asia. We’re a “one stop shop” for all your intellectual property needs which means we give advice to clients on applying for patents, registered designs, and trademarks and maintaining a coordinated intellectual property strategy. We also have a legal team that gives advice on commercial contracts and includes an internationally renowned litigation practice.
Our clients range from small start-ups to universities, charities, and big multinational companies. We work in all fields including entertainment, software, electronics, and healthcare, and so forth. We have particular expertise in cutting-edge areas like 3D printing, AI, XR, and 5G.
How did Marks & Clerk get its name?
The firm was founded in the 1880’s and gets its name from the founders George Croydon Marks and Dugald Clerk. So when they started the business Queen Victoria was on the throne and Sherlock Holmes was in Baker Street! Both founders have an interesting background; Marks was a famous engineer and actually a colleague of Thomas Edison. He became a director of companies like Columbia and EMI and was also a politician who was elevated to the House of Lords as Baron Marks. Clerk invented the two-stroke gas engine and spent many years developing the technology. So as you can see, they were both very interesting and successful people.
What makes Marks & Clerk special?
The company has a global reach and a breadth and depth of expertise to match all its competitors so we can give clients a top tier service, wherever they are and whatever their technological and commercial requirements. If their technology spans a range of fields, we can pull a team together with all the requisite skills.
However, in my opinion, what really makes us different is the company culture. Lots of organisations have core values but they don’t always translate into action. It’s clear ours do because it is a great place to work. In fact, when I applied here, the first question I was asked was “Are you a nice person?” Luckily, I managed to fool them and they let me in!
What are your plans for the near future?
I spoke last week on licensing 5G at Birmingham Tech Week and the recording will be online soon. I will also be speaking on virtual reality meetings and collaborations at VR Days Europe in November so anyone interested in the XR sector should sign up. In general, we are pretty busy at the moment. Covid-19 has given many of our healthcare clients new challenges to meet and the lockdown has obviously been a shot in the arm for the XR sector.
How has the pandemic affected your working life?
To be honest, it hasn’t that much. We were all set up to work remotely anyway and adapted pretty quickly. I don’t waste time commuting now so probably get more done and, ironically, I am seeing people face to face more than I used to. Thanks to video conferencing, I am interacting with people visually when previously I would have just emailed or phoned them. So I don’t feel isolated. Of course, work-related traveling is currently out of the question but it will come back, and meanwhile, we have honed our viral marketing strategy.
What are your tips for others working remotely?
Maintain a structure in your working day and separate your work life from your personal life. It is also very important to avoid spending too much time staring at your screen. In the office, we used to get up and talk to people, go to the printer, out to lunch. Now, if we’re not careful, we’re stuck in the same position all day gazing into a luminous rectangle. Our bodies weren’t built for that so I would encourage people to get off the laptop and take regular walks and rest the eyes, even if for just a few minutes.
What for you are the biggest benefits of being part of the FBCC?
Membership gives us the scope to widen our network and meet people from various businesses in the United Kingdom and Finland, who we hope will turn into clients and useful contacts. Finland, and the Nordic countries in general, are highly networked, full of innovation, and a great breeding ground for start-up companies. Luckily, Brexit hasn’t deterred Nordic businesses from setting up over here, and nor should it. The regular networking events are also great fun and, with luck, we’ll soon get back to doing them face to face. Meanwhile, I’m still living off winning one of the FBCC’s recent Nordic quizzes on Zoom and consequently suffering from a very un-Scandinavian bout of smugness. Regrettably, we didn’t do so well in the last one.