The government’s ambitious plan to push Singapore further into the global economy has certainly cemented it as a jurisdiction of choice for many foreign companies – but it isn’t stopping there. Following moves to liberalise the legal services sector further, which saw six foreign firms granted licences to practise local law, the government also announced that it would be developing Singapore as Asia’s hub for IP education and training. It aims to do this by reviewing existing laws and regimes, training IP professionals, and luring more IP firms into the country. However, attracting more IP firms may have a lot to do with the popularity of the existing IP regime. As one local lawyer put it: “Businesses in Singapore are reasonably honest and they do not abuse the IP rights of others. Singapore has a good reputation and the business people here are honest and efficient. The kind of infringement cases you see here are small retailers who import products unaware that the products are copyrighted, but once they get a letter they stop. The cases that do exist are big businesses who genuinely believe they are not infringing the patent or trademark of others, or that those should be revoked as it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny,” said Drew Napier’s head of IP Morris John, one of Singapore’s peer recommended lawyers.
Some of the firms noted as among the ‘top-tier’ servicing IP matters were ATMD Bird & Bird, Lee & Lee and Drew & Napier. The latter’s expertise in litigation was singled out by one client, and peers regarded the firm’s lawyers, particularly Dedar Singh Gill, very highly for their industry presence. ATMD’s Alban Kang was highly regarded by peers, as was Lee & Lee’s Tan Tee Jim. IP head Lee Ai Ming was regarded as a “highly knowledgeable lawyer”. Rodyk & Davidson was once again commended, with one client mentioning the firm’s “commercial approach”.
Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam
Taiwan’s economy is arguably driven by the manufacturing industries, even though many of the factories themselves are located in mainland China. It is no surprise that IP protection is now, amid the financial crisis, on the government’s agenda. Last July, Taiwan established an IP court which is said to simplify the processing of litigation cases for law firms and their clients. Thailand has also aimed to improve enforcement of its IP laws, as the country joined the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property last year. Although it remains on the US’s Priority Watch List, the government has said that Thailand will ensure IP laws are enforced and any violations prosecuted. However, there was no indication that amendments or introduction of new IP laws would occur, despite a number of IP issues in need of review presented to the IP department recently.
In Taiwan, Deep & Far received recognition for handling complex legal issues and establishing a good local presence, with the firm handling the ‘Knife-Free Adhesive Tape’ case. Baker & McKenzie and Lee and Li were also noted by peers and clients for their work representing both local and international matters. Bakers was recently engaged by L’Oreal and The Body Shop against distributors of counterfeit products on a case worth in excess of THB100m – a case considered one of Thailand’s major actions against cosmetic counterfeiters. Newcomers to ALB’s Leading IP Firms this year, InvestConsult were Vietnam’s IP firm of choice for a number of clients, with one client saying it provided “sound legal advice”. Lovells was also highly praised and recommended as was Tilleke & Gibbons and its lawyer Thomas Treutler. Vision & Associates’ IP head Le Thi Kim Dzung was also highly thought of.
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