DID you know there are up to 40 items of intellectual property wrapped up in a bottle of beer?

Neither did I. Yet, in a nutshell (or bottle if you prefer), this nugget of information encapsulates why the world of patents and trademarks holds such a fascination for Donald Lawrie.

The patent attorney moved into the field after completing a PhD in chemistry, and established his own practice, Lawrie IP, in 2010.

Having passed up an opportunity to work for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, he embarked on his professional training to become a patent attorney with Kennedys before moving on to Murgitroyd.

“Being in a lab day in, day out, I decided halfway through my PhD that it wasn’t for me,” said Mr Lawrie when asked why he had switched the lab coat for more regular business attire.

“There is only so much chlorinated solvents you can inhale without thinking: “I’m not sure this is completely the best thing for my health! I had always been really interested in writing. Before I went to university, I applied to do chemistry and history and law. I always had an interest in law and the more written side of things.”

“I found out a bit more about the profession from a friend of mine, who had gone into it straight after their first degree. And I thought, actually, that this is really what I’d quite like to do. It mixes science, law, writing and it’s all about analysis and attention to detail.”

Mr Lawrie established his own practice after completing several years of professional exams while at Kennedy’s, and then working for Murgitroyd for around two and half years.

Today, his firm employs 17 people and turns over around £2 million, with a target to lift that those respective numbers to 30 and £5m by 2023. As an indication of its current growth trajectory, it has recently moved from its office at The Hub in Pacific Quay to bigger premises at 310 St Vincent Street, formerly Dalmore House and the home of Whyte and Mackay.

“I made a decision to grow the business reasonably early on,” said Mr Lawrie. “And at point I managed to recruit my business partner, Craig Hutchison. Getting him on board was a real coup for the company. That made a made a big, big difference. And not long after that we recruited Sharon Mackison, who is a trademark attorney, to head up our trademark team.

“Around about the same time we also got a chartered accountant, Diane Cameron, who is also my wife. She trained at PwC and then worked for Glasgow University before becoming an accountant, so from a reasonably early stage we had quite a strong base, which then allowed us to push on and then grow the business.”

Food and drink has emerged as a major growth area for the firm. Mr Lawrie commissioned a brewer to make its own Lawrie IPA, which it uses in presentations to illustrate the breadth of IP involved in a product as seemingly simple as beer. “I’ve come up with a list of 40 different types of IP [which are] potentially in one bottle of beer. Some of them [are] probably stretching it a little bit, but there are some really key, important ones.

“The key one, especially with food and drink, is always going to be the brand. Trademark protection is the most important one for food and drink clients. Patents can also be relevant. For example, if you come up with a new way of making your beer, then that can be patented. In the past we have patented a new bread product for a client, who came up with a new way of making gluten-free bread, so the actual bread itself is patented.”

Bottle and labelling designs are other pieces of intellectual property which can be protected. “For a food and drink company, the brand is obviously going to be really important,” Mr Lawrie said. “But for something like a start-up biotech company, brand might be important but actually what is probably really important is [patenting] the technology.”

One “barrier” to growth Mr Lawrie did flag was the relatively small pool of professional talent available in Scotland. He observed that there are only around 100 UK-qualified patent attorneys in Scotland, and fewer 30 qualified trademark attorneys.

To counter that challenge, the firm is setting up its own academy, which as well as helping people become qualified as attorneys will also steep them in Lawrie’s values and client-focused approach. Mr Lawrie hopes it will be up and running this year.

“It’s not just about teaching the mechanics of the job – it is teaching the softer side as well,” he said. “There is a lot more do the job than sitting at a desk doing mechanical things.”

Meanwhile the shadow of Brexit continues to loom. Mr Lawrie warned that anyone with a pending EU trademark, and there are currently around 340,000, will find it ceases to have effect in the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal, though that eventuality now appears to be less likely.

“If you’d filed your EU trademark in the expectation of having UK protection, that is no longer the cause,” he said. “So you’d need to re-file that trademark in the UK. That means you are going to have to pay over official fees to the UK Intellectual Property Office for that trademark application, and you are almost certainly going to have to pay some professional fees as well.”

Noting that this cost could an average of around £1,000 per application, he added: “If everybody wants to do that… then the costs are going to be enormous.”

Six Questions:

What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?

Brazil. My then girlfriend (now wife) and I went to Rio de Janeiro when we were students. It was an incredible experience and coincided with the exchange rate doubling in our favour. So even although we went there on a student budget, we lived like kings – for 10 days, anyway.

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?

I always wanted to be a rally car driver. I was born and brought up in Fort William and learned to drive in a field long before I was old enough to drive, so it seemed natural.

What was your biggest break in business?

Marrying a chartered accountant, and convincing two experienced and brilliant attorneys (Craig Hutchison and Sharon Mackison) to join Lawrie IP at an early stage.

What was your worst moment in business?

Having a deal for new office premises fall through a few weeks before we were due to move out of our then premises. We were faced with being potentially homeless and had to find a quick solution.

Who do you most admire and why?

My wife, Diane. She is intelligent, empathetic and selfless. She works as our finance director, but also looks after our two young children (7 and 4) and generally holds our homelife together! She has MS, but that is never her focus – it is always others.

What book are you reading and what music are you listening to? What was the last film you saw?

I’m currently reading Grit: why passion and resilience are the secrets to success by professor Angela Duckworth.

I like the idea that effort is more important than innate ability.

I mainly listen to BBC Radio 6 Music, and I’m quite into Young Fathers. The last film I saw was Despicable Me 3.