IN the face of takeovers, business restructures and new management in the economic downturn, law firms' intellectual property practices are finding an increase of work as clients rush to tidy up their businesses.
Intellectual property firm Griffith Hack is forging ahead with growth despite the economic climate as clients make efforts to streamline their various IP issues in the global financial crisis.
The firm has hired former Corrs Chambers Westgarth IP litigator, Sally Nicolson, in the role of special counsel and is looking to boost its junior ranks in the same area.
Chairman of Griffith Hack, Tony Ward, said this was a wise move by the firm as each new partner brings with them new business, which has contributed to the IP divisions’ growth.
“Our view is that there is a growing need for boutique law practices specialising in IP law,” he said.
“I think that a lot of small to medium sized enterprises are realising that their trademarks and names are valuable, especially if they are planning to sell the business.”
Ward claims that in tough times such as now, IP is even more important as people are keener to protect and enforce their rights and their property.
“The average man on the street is a lot more IP savvy than they used to be,” he added.
According to intellectual property partner at Middletons, Jane Owen, there has been a recent spread of recognition in the importance of IP. "We've moved from IP being a business driver only in brand intense type industries and technology driven industries to it becoming important for all companies who want to be seen as surviving companies," she said.
"Obviously innovation and renewal are key to survival, and innovation and renewal are key drivers to IP."
While Owen denies she has seen any increase in filing activity during the global financial downturn, she has noticed an increase of work in an invigoration of management refreshing policy and internal approach to the management of IP.
"The change is driven by change of focus, and people may be taking the opportunity to get their house in order. The outcome of that may be where things seem to have been overlooked ... and a bit of patch up going on," the Middletons partner said.
Increased takeovers also result in a heightening of IP work, said Owen. "People will generally tidy up their IP in preparation for a takeover because obviously IP is going to be part of the audit process that goes on."
Owen gives the example of the NSW Lotteries, a client of the IP practice at Middletons. "Given that the Government has been trying to sell that off, we've noticed some tidying up of issues. When it's a big enterprise, everyone wants their own department in order," she said.
Nicolson, meanwhile, who spent nine years at Corrs Chambers Westgarth and was a partner in its IP, competition and technology practice group, has been spearheaded to boost Griffith Hack's practice. Ward said Nicolson’s expertise would make a great addition to the firm, which had experienced significant growth in the last 12 to 18 months.
“Before we had this global meltdown we decided we would bring on board some high profile IP specialists, including Russell Berry and Wayne Condon. Nicolson’s appointment is a continuation of that decision.”