Who’s who in the zoo – how independent is your Australian IP Attorney?

Posted By on 23/02/18 at 9:51 AM

Increasing concerns in Australia and New Zealand around conflicts arising from the new business model of publicly listed companies acquiring multiple Australian and New Zealand IP Firms have led to the new Code of Conduct for Trans-Tasman Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys 2018 which commences today.

These concerns are centred on the independence of these firms, conflict issues and disclosure to clients of the ownership and group structures of many firms who historically have been seen as independent.  Research has shown that many clients have no idea that the firm they have engaged is owned by a listed company and/or operating in a group with other firms representing their adversaries.

For example:

  • IPH owns
    • Spruson & Ferguson,Who's who in the zoo - how independent is your Australian IP Attorney?
    • Fisher Adams Kelly Callinans,
    • Pizzeys,
    • Cullens, and
    • AJ Park.
  • Xenith IP owns
    • Shelston IP,
    • Watermark, and
    • Griffith Hack.
  • QANTM IP owns
    • Davies Collison Cave, and
    • FPA Patent Attorneys (formerly, Freehills Patent Attorneys).

From today, Australian firms must inform their clients both in Australia and overseas whether their company is public or private.  If a firm is operating in a group under the same owner this must also be disclosed to the public, as well as details of the names of the other firms in the group, in a manner which can be clearly understood.

The clients of firms within a group will now be treated as a single pool of clients for the purposes of assessing conflicts unless those firms can show they are “operating independently.  This raises the potential for increased conflicts within these firms and questions around the concept of independent operation within these groups.  Even where these group firms can be said to be operating independently they must not act in contentious matters for a client against a client of another firm in the group without the informed consents of both clients.

KHQ Lawyers is an independent top-tier boutique firm and can assist with your IP needs in Australia and New Zealand.  We are not owned by a listed company and do not operate in a group with other firms.

KHQ Lawyers - Fiona Trethewey

Fiona Trethewey Principal

Fiona Trethewey heads up our intellectual property team and specialises in intellectual property law and franchising.  She has extensive experience in assisting clients with a range of commercial issues... Read More