Aussie firms lose out to Kiwis

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A New Zealand IP firm is leading the charge when it comes to patent law in Australia.
 
James & Wells is ahead of Australian counterparts when it comes to filing in the Patent Office, partner Gus Hazel said.
 
“We are competing against, and beating, Australian firms in their own backyard,” he told Australasian Lawyer.
 
“And we’re getting some really good work. Australia’s had major reforms in its patent laws in the last couple of years, and they are only just starting to kick in now. And as it turns out, we are going to be leading all the first cases testing this law, which is a great accolade really.”
 
Partners in the firm have just been named on the IP industry’s most illustrious list, the Intellectual Asset Management’s IAM Patent 1000.
 
Hazel was recommended for patent litigation and transactions, while his fellow partners, Ian Finch and Kate Wilson received a gold ranking for patent litigation and transactions and a recommendation for patent prosecution, respectively.
 
Hazel, who hails from Australia, moved over to New Zealand a decade ago and has since practiced in both Auckland and Wellington.
 
He’s one of several Australian lawyers at the firm, which he believed did offer a competitive edge when working over the ditch.
 
“There are [also] some cost advantages for international firms working through New Zealand. They are not pronounced as they sometimes are, given the Australian and New Zealand dollar are pretty close,” he said.
 
“The other thing about James & Wells is we just try to do things a little bit differently. We try to be more ‘less traditional law firm, more business partner’. Someone you can actually talk to. And what we have found is that even the really big multinational firms really seem to enjoy doing business with us. It is not the sterile extremes they’ve had with a lot of law firms. They seem to be able to get along with us as people.”
 
So what are the major challenges when it comes to working trans-Tasman?
 
“There are some challenges, but they are not insurmountable.  The Australian firms are starting to come here [as well], so I guess that is becoming more of a trend – Australian firms doing cases here, us doing cases there,” he said.
 
The laws in the two countries are similar, but not identical, so lawyers do have to upskill, he said.
 
“On top of the legal difference, there are some practice differences as well. The way you would present a case in New Zealand is not the same way as you would present a case in Australian courts, and the same in the Patent Office. Things are done slightly differently here. They are only nuances – but they are important.”
 
Hazel said he is now happy practicing both jurisdictions.
 
“It’s the way of the future, to be honest. New Zealand and Australia are becoming closer and closer economically. Particularly for a company from the US, Europe or China – they treat them as one. I have even had clients say, ‘oh, are they different countries?’.”
 
“I tell them, ‘Yes they are’,” he laughed.
 
“They are just kind of lumped together as one economic unit, and that’s the way it is.”
  • Anon on 10/07/2015 9:30:35 PM

    I would like Mr Hazel to back up his claim with hard data.

    A rudimentary search on the AusPat database shows many major Australian IP firms were agent for many, many, many more filings in FY2014-2015 than James & Wells:

    - Davies Collison Cave: "(davies IN AG) AND (collison IN AG) AND (cave IN AG) AND (2014-07-01 TO 2015-06-30) IN FD" returned 1095 results

    - Spruson & Ferguson: "(spruson IN AG) AND (ferguson IN AG) AND (2014-07-01 TO 2015-06-30) IN FD" returned 1077 results

    - Griffith Hack: "(griffith IN AG) AND (hack IN AG) AND (2014-07-01 TO 2015-06-30) IN FD" returned 1025 results

    - Phillips Ormonde Fitzpatrick: "(phillips IN AG) AND (ormonde IN AG) AND (2014-07-01 TO 2015-06-30) IN FD" returned 742 results

    - Shelston IP: "(shelston IN AG) AND (2014-07-01 TO 2015-06-30) IN FD" returned 622 results

    - FB Rice: "(fb IN AG) AND (rice IN AG) AND (2014-07-01 TO 2015-06-30) IN FD" returned 585 results

    - Freehills: "(freehills IN AG) AND (2014-07-01 TO 2015-06-30) IN FD" returned 469 results

    - Watermark: "(watermark IN AG) AND (2014-07-01 TO 2015-06-30) IN FD" returned 378 results

    - Wrays: "(wrays IN AG) AND (2014-07-01 TO 2015-06-30) IN FD" returned 291 results

    - James & Wells: "(james IN AG) AND (wells IN AG) AND (2014-07-01 TO 2015-06-30) IN FD" returned 49 results

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