The practice of intellectual property law is constantly changing as regimes throughout the world increasingly realise its importance. Here, ALB looks at the top IP firms and practitioners across the region.
The rapidly evolving world of intellectual property (IP) has seen some significant changes in the past year, as the subsequent country market summaries demonstrate. However, a more important issue to emerge in the global financial crisis is whether IP protection may be a factor that can drive Asia’s economic growth. This was the argument put forward in a recent study published by the Property Rights Alliance, stating that countries which protect intellectual property have a per capita GDP around nine times greater than those without proper IP legal systems… Ample reason to believe that economic development and IP protection benefit from each other. “Intellectual property rights can boost trade and foreign investment dramatically, but first global piracy and counterfeiting must be stopped or significantly reduced for the economies of developed and developing nations to thrive,” says Kelsey Zahourek, executive director of Property Rights Alliance. This argument arrives on the back of what many deem Asia’s growing understanding of the importance of IP protection, as businesses shift stance and begin to view IP as more of a potentially profit-making enterprise.
In researching ALB’s Leading Asia IP Firms, the two foremost issues for clients doing business in Asia were the security of a country’s IP regime and, of course, legal costs. In the current economic climate, it was no surprise that costs came up as a major dividing issue. One respondent mentioned the exhaustive number of counsel needed in IP litigation, meaning fees can quickly rack up when billed hourly. However, not all clients felt the same, with some noting that IP litigation costs in Asia were relatively low compared to other jurisdictions. Asia is arguably the world’s manufacturing hub and ensuring IP assets were protected was the primary concern for foreign companies outsourcing work to Asia. In essence, where a company decided to do business was significantly based on the strength of IP laws in a particular country, coupled with the success rate of filing patents and trademarks there. As one general counsel at a global tech company said, there is ample opportunity for lawyers to serve clients better by doing more to ensure a patent is registered successfully and by focusing on ways to facilitate improvements to IP regimes. However, in light of the IP developments (or in some cases the lack of) outlined here in each country, whether that’s achievable is another matter entirely.
China wants to show the world it is serious about IP protection. The amendments to the country’s Patent Law passed in December last year include revisions and clarifications on double patenting standards, and penalties for foreign filing without a licence. But despite these assurances, companies still deem China to be the most risky country in the world for IP infringement, according to recent research. It is a worrying finding, which could see companies that rely significantly on the profits gained from IP protection simply ignore China and move their business elsewhere. Nevertheless, as Chinese brands’ prominence rises globally, law firms should be gearing up for growth of business in the coming years, as companies aim to ensure trademarks and copyrights are protected. “The volume of IP litigation has increased in recent years,” said Fangda Partners’ Gordon Gao. “And more importantly, the damage awards in infringement cases are rising and increasingly punitive.” This year, China also rose from eighth to seventh place in the World Brand Laboratories’ list of the countries with the highest number of influential brands – which included brands such as Haier, Lenovo, State Grid and Bank of China. As these brands rise in value and Chinese companies capture more of the global market (as deals involving Chinese energy and mining companies with interests in Australia, and Singapore demonstrate), law firms’ IP practices will remain stable, if not buoyant. “National industrial development
policy, IPR strategy, the prosecution and enforcement of IPRs of both Chinese enterprises, and individuals, will continue and create more work for law firms,” said , Lian Yunze, lead IP partner at Hylands. Industry Among the highly praised domestic firms were Watson & Band, whose managing partner George Fu was well regarded, having served as a presiding judge of Shanghai High People’s Court and head of the Intellectual Property Research Committee of the Shanghai Bar Association. Unsurprisingly, Zhongzi’s IP practice was also highly rated, as it handles around 70% of the firm’s work and is serviced by more than 100 lawyers and patent agents. In the international ranks, Jones Day’s patent litigation experts emerged for “depth of specialisation,” with partner Anthony Chen from the Shanghai office particularly noted. Lovells’ work on the Quallcom-Nokia dispute garnered it industry accolades, and peers took special note of IP head Douglas Clark for his expertise. Also mentioned was Hylands, which recently bolstered its capabilities with the appointment of IP lawyer Zhengfa Wang. Fangda Partners was praised by clients from the technology and software industries, one noting that the firm’s strength in litigation helped it ensure the security of its business interests.
NEXT: Hong Kong,South Korea rankings and market overview
Go to page: 1 2 3 4 5