Expert Exchange

What does successful PR look like today?
By Mary Hickey, Senior PR Officer at Medilink North of England

I’ve worked in PR for a little over six years now – a drop in the ocean compared to many of my fellow professionals. However, in the last six years, there’s been a huge shift in PR and no, I’m not referring to the advances in social media here, I’m instead looking on back on how much, what’s deemed as, success has changed.

During my six years working in PR I’ve been fortunate enough to work in a number of different roles within a range of industries, local Government, the third sector, a media production company, higher education and now the healthcare industry. I’ve primarily worked in house during my PR career, sometimes in the client role working alongside PR agencies – now I'm on the other side and have clients myself the shift in how success is measured is even more evident.

During my early days as a Communications Assistant and a Junior Press Officer – success was always in the form of national coverage. I guess hitting KPIs and measuring AVE was important too, but what my various directors really wanted from me following the pitching of a press release or campaign launch was columns inches filled in national papers, interviews on national news channels and widespread coverage online – that was success. No national coverage? I felt like I’d failed really.

Now I think the expectations of CEOs and clients are really changing. I think today PR success is measured in the impact of your coverage – what do readers, consumers, potential customers and stakeholders actually DO as a result of the news they see, read and hear.

I’ve heard whispers filtered down from directors and executives over the last 18 months about how important impact is to clients and CEOs. It’s almost as if PR is edging nearer to marketing – the analysis of the behaviour of audiences following PR coverage is more important than the coverage itself. 

I think the moment this was made most evident to me was in a previous role before I arrived at Medilink. I was working alongside an academic on a research story – a fairly controversial piece of academic research that was likely to get tongues wagging. The story went everywhere, from Sky News, to Stylist to Mail Online to the Guardian – I can’t think of a national paper I didn’t see the story land in. I was of course delighted and found real joy compiling the coverage report. Awareness increased, the UK was talking about the story, the institution I worked for was recognised for world-leading research. “But what are people actually going to do now with the information they’ve read?” I was asked.

Huh? I’ve racked up a tonne of coverage here, awareness is high, everyone’s talking about it.

But actually, yeah, what are people going to do now?

This is when I remembered a comment on a forum regarding the story that had come through in media monitoring earlier that day. It was just a small forum, a user had just mentioned the research, I didn’t think it was worth flagging. But on a second visit I noticed a conversation had now started with a number of users and an MP had now got involved and crikey now said MP is talking about it on Twitter!

Feeding this back to my team was when I got my brownie points – this is what they wanted.

Whilst all the coverage was welcomed – an MP getting involved in a debate about the research was the success for them. The blog post would have sufficed – I would have done my job.

Does this mean that endless pitching to secure coverage is a fruitless exercise now? Of course not, coverage is coverage it’s the bread and butter of PR. But the real knack of good PR now is creating impact – and this might mean re-thinking where we channel our efforts. Instead of phone bashing news desks – perhaps reaching out to a stakeholder on LinkedIn and starting a conversation about the topic is more effective.

When thinking about the impact you want to create through a communications campaign its important to keep the corporate strategy of the business at the core of all decisions. What is my client trying to achieve and how can communications help them achieve this? Gone are the days where simply raising awareness is enough. Do they want to sell a product? Profile their expertise? Network with academics? Whatever their goal is – it’s our job to help make it happen.

Some clients and CEOs are only just catching on about the importance of impact – and more aren’t really aware of it until they start questioning what people are doing following a campaign launch.

I’ve learnt that it’s more important than ever to ask a client “what do you want to achieve here?" If they want to engage with an important influencer – lets engage with them through a blog post, do they want to raise awareness with community leaders – let’s reach out to local influencers, local papers and community Facebook pages.

Yes, seeing your client in the nationals is great, fabulous even. But making sure you know who you need to engage with, why and how - is what I have found, really determines success today.

Does your insurance protect you from GDPR
By Neal Lumb of Medilink Partner Finch

Many business operating in the Medical sector will currently hold lots of different types of highly sensitive data. This could be anything from patient health data to intellectual property generated either from their own research or entrusted to them by one of their customers.

The arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, will mean that all companies collecting, holding and processing personal data in the EU will face increasingly stringent obligations for data security and will face severe regulatory penalties if the data they hold is compromised in some way.

Many businesses have assumed that their current commercial insurance arrangements will protect them in the event of a data breach or regulatory fine but this is simply not the case. There is no cover under the vast majority of standard commercial insurance contracts for these types of events. Specialist Cyber insurance can help protect businesses against some of these issues and businesses should seek specialist advice it they are concerned about the legal, commercial or professional implications of their data being lost, stolen or held to ransom.

Some key practical steps businesses can take are:
- Implement staff training on data security as 65% of data incidents are caused by staff members failing to follow guidelines or opening attachments containing Malware or Ransomware.

- Ensure all portable devices such as laptops, tablets and phones carry a sufficient level of data encryption in case they are lost, stolen or left on a train!

- Seek specialist help to create an Incident response plan to cope with a data loss event – this could be the difference between your business reputation surviving or not!

How can insurance help?
Whilst no insurance policy can protect you against certain regulatory fines imposed by current Data Protection laws, or the incoming GDPR, specialist cyber insurance policies can assist with:
- The high costs of recovering from a data breach incident and loss of revenue whilst systems are down.
- Specialist Reputational PR advice on how to manage customer and press enquiries
- Access to forensic IT expertise who can help you identify and remedy the cause of a data breach.

If you would like help or advice please contact Director and Medtech insurance specialist, Neal Lumb, on 07599 718453 or email neal.lumb@finchib.co.uk.


Preparing for change: A new type of patent for Europe
By Martyn Fish, HGF Partner

This is the second in our series of briefing notes which consider the key decisions that patentees and applicants will need to make as a consequence of the introduction of Unitary Patents (UPs) and the Unified Patent Court (UPC) in Europe.

In this note the focus is on the new option of obtaining a UP which will be available to all applicants applying for patents via the European Patent Office (EPO). We expect that this new option will be available by Q1 / Q2 2017. It is vital to prepare your existing patent portfolio for the new patent landscape as there may be as little as 6 months' notice of the new system going live.

What is the unitary patent?
A Unitary Patent will be a patent offering uniform protection in up to 25 participating Member States of the European Union. For the UP and UPC System to go live, at least 13 participating Member States must ratify the agreement, including France, Germany and the UK. To date nine countries have ratified: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal and Sweden.

Applicants will not need to apply separately for a UP – any patent applied for, examined and granted by the EPO will have the possibility of benefiting from unitary protection at the request of the patentee from the date that the system goes live. In the beginning it is likely that a UP will not cover all 25 participating Member States. The exact coverage will depend upon which Member States have ratified the agreement at the time.

Applicants will not be forced to choose a UP. They will still be able to follow current practice and select individual EP countries in which to validate their EP. Given that not all EPC contracting states will be part of the UP (such as Croatia, Spain, Turkey, Norway) a combination of a UP and additional EP validations will always be needed for maximum coverage. It will not be possible to validate both a UP and individual EPs in countries covered by the UP for the same patent. The UP therefore adds a new layer of choice for patentees obtaining patents via the EPO.

Requesting a UP
To obtain a UP a patentee must file a request for unitary patent protection at the EPO no later than one month after the mention of grant of the patent is published. This is a shorter deadline than patentees are currently used to for validating their EPs.

The request for unitary protection must include the name of the requester, the number of the EP to which unitary effect is to be attributed, and information about the representative. For a transitional period, patentees will also have to file a full English translation of the patent if the patent is granted in French or German, or a full translation into any language of the EU if the patent has been granted in English.

Once it goes live, the UP system will be available to all patents that are pending, not just new applications. So if you have a patent currently pending at the EPO, if you think there would be benefit in obtaining unitary protection or in any event if it is likely to go to grant soon, you could consider slowing down the grant process or filing a divisional application, to keep the UP option alive.

One of the potential advantages of a UP is the opportunity to obtain wider territorial protection with a lower renewal expenditure and reduced administration costs over the lifetime of a patent.

A single renewal fee will be paid to the EPO for a UP for every year you want to renew your UP. After much debate the renewal fee has been set to match the sum total of the national renewal fees payable in the four most widely validated EP countries, namely: Germany, France, the United Kingdom and The Netherlands. The expected renewal fees over the lifetime of a UP are set out in Table 1.

True TOP 4 (€)
1 175
1 460
1 775
2 105
2 455
2 830
3 240
3 640
4 055
4 455
4 855
35 555

Whether opting for a UP is commercially attractive will therefore be a balance between the scope of protection required and the cost of a UP versus opting for classical EP validations. In our experience the breadth of EP validations varies widely between different technology areas and so whether a UP will be attractive will be sector driven and specific to each business.

Table 2 shows a comparison of the renewal costs for differing validation strategies during the lifetime of a patent.

Year EP Large portfolio (€) (13; DE, UK, FR, AT, NL, BE, LU, IE, SE, DK, FI, GR, PT) EP Medium portfolio (€) (5: DE, UK, FR, NL, SE) EP Small portfolio (€) (3; DE, UK, FR) UP (€)
(25 member states)
6 1 600 660 330 475
15 7 600 3 360 1 975 2 830
20 12 125 5 575 3 520 4 855


Opposition and Litigation
The existing opposition procedure at the EPO will apply to UPs just as it does currently for EPs. Opposition must be filed at the EPO within nine months of the publication of the mention that the patent has been granted. For the purposes of the opposition the EPO will treat the patent as a single entity irrespective of where it is validated, whether as a UP or not.

The UPC will have exclusive jurisdiction for litigation of UPs and unlike EPs, UPs cannot be opted out of the jurisdiction of the UPC. Patentees may wish to consider filing a divisional EP application, so that the parent can be validated as an EP and opted out of the UPC, and the divisional validated as a UP, or vice versa. This provides patentees with the ability to choose which forum, UPC or the national courts, to litigate in.

A new consideration for co-applicants is that the location of the first named applicant for a UP on the European Patent Register determines what law will apply to the UP in any subsequent litigation. For the first time the order that co-applicants are listed needs to be considered carefully for any new EP applications, as well as existing EP applications.

Considerations for requesting a UP
• If you wish to validate the patent in more than 4 participating Member States, there may be cost savings on the renewal fees over the lifetime of the patent.
• Requesting a UP may be more straightforward than fulfilling the validation requirements in multiple EPC states.
• A UP can only be litigated before the UPC. This can give you the potential to obtain a pan-EU injunction throughout the participating Member States in a single infringement action. However a UP will always be vulnerable to central revocation before the UPC; there is no opting-out of the jurisdiction of the UPC for a UP.
• For inventions that are likely to be important to the business, applicants should consider filing EP divisional applications to maximise flexibility on choice of jurisdiction.
• The target timeline for resolution of first instance proceedings within the UPC is 12 months, which while equivalent to proceedings before the English, Dutch and German Courts is significantly better than proceedings before many other national Courts or the EPO.
• A UP may be "licensed" in respect of the whole or part of the territories of the participating member states, but any challenges or transfers will affect all licences as the patent is a unitary right.
• If you in-license a patent application and do not have control in your licence agreement as to whether the application should grant as a UP you may not have any choice.
• If you are only interested in validating in 4 or fewer participating UPC States, a UP may not be cost effective for your company. However, EP validation alone will not remove the patent from the jurisdiction of the UPC and you will still need to opt-out of the patent. This is covered in our briefing note "The UPC Opt-Out Decision".

If you would like to discuss strategy development or portfolio review, HGF can provide you with assistance and guidance on formulating and implementing your company's UPC strategy.

Should you have any further questions about unitary patent protection, please contact our dedicated UPC team on UPCReady@hgf.com or contact your usual attorney to discuss these issues further.