Heuking embarks on mixed approach with patent attorney hire

The patent practice of national full-service firm Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek is starting the new year with a new strategy. Following the addition of a patent attorney experienced in AI, the firm is adopting a mixed approach. The move is part of the firm's wider aim to build up special expertise in AI.

17 January 2022 by Christina Schulze

Heuking, Sommer-Zhen Heuking is the next national full-service law firm in Germany to choose a mixed approach with litigators and patent attorneys ©sailer/ADOBE STOCK

Engineer and patent attorney Isabella Sommer-Zhang (31) has joined Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek‘s four-lawyer-strong patent litigation team in Düsseldorf. She previously worked for patent attorney firms Farago and Jostarndt in Aachen, passing her European patent attorney examination last year

As part of her education and training in electrical engineering and information technology, Sommer-Zhang worked for clients such as OLEDWorks. She also gained experience with AI patents through work for technology company Komet, and 3D metal printing manufacturer Aixway.

Heuking builds on AI knowledge

The firm’s patent team continues to focus strongly on litigation. However, it also intends to support its core SME clientele with individual applications for AI patents in the future.

Isabella Sommer-Zhang

Hiring Sommer-Zhang therefore shows Heuking embarking on a mixed-team approach. Previously, the Düsseldorf team consisted of four lawyers in patent litigation. One lawyer in Frankfurt works at the interface with soft IP.

Heuking already has experience in integrating other fee earners such as tax advisors. The firm also offers these fee-earners access to its equity partnership.

Almost two years ago, Heuking revamped its Swiss office with a team led by blockchain specialist Marcel Hostettler. Since then, the firm has worked to expand its expertise around AI beyond the banking sector for its core SME clients.

The firm also has numerous Mittelstand clients that work with AI. However, protection of AI developments is a new challenge for them. Heuking hiring an AI expert should help the firm attract more clients, and strengthen its knowledge on current issues such as patentability of software.

Sommer-Zhang part of mixed set-up

With the addition of Isabella Sommer-Zhang, the firm will now expand knowledge on AI specifically for technical IP rights. Although the team continues to focus primarily on litigation, it will offer patent applications in this technical field in the future.

Heuking is the latest law firm to pursue a mixed set-up, following the example of other firms such as Hogan Lovells. However, Heuking’s move is geared toward developing a deeper specialism in the AI field. Here, its patent team can work on AI together with its lawyers from other sectors, in order to develop a special competence in the subject.

As such, Heuking is launching a mixed practice less as comprehensive preparation for the UPC. Rather, the firm is pursuing a more interesting approach to stand out in a technical area from competitors such as Gleiss Lutz or Noerr.