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New Zealand > Intellectual property > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings


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  1. Intellectual property
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Next Generation Partners

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'On pure IP matters the firm is very well thought of', remarks a client of AJ Park. The firm is recognised as a powerhouse in the field, with a team of 180 in Auckland and Wellington focused purely on IP strategy, commercialisation, protection, and enforcement. 'It is a tier one firm, given the size of its practice and the breadth of its client portfolio', notes one source. In Auckland, Anton Blijlevens focuses on the engineering and ICT sectors. Also recommended are Anton Gibson, who leads the life sciences patent practice; trade mark strategist John Hackett; veteran trade mark specialist Colleen Cavanagh, who has more than 30 years' experience; litigation and enforcement specialist Kim McLeod; and newly promoted principal Amanda Griffiths, who acted for Prevar on the commercialisation of the new Cherish apple variety. In Wellington, Mark Hargreaves leads the commercial and strategy practice; managing director Damian Broadley handles trade mark strategy, copyright and domain name issues; Corinne Cole is a barrister, solicitor and patent attorney; and Kate McHaffie leads the Wellington litigation team.

Chapman Tripp is 'highly responsive, knowledgeable and focused on practical solutions rather than theoretical frolics', according to one client. 'We are very impressed with the level of service; the team is well structured to handle large-scale litigation, and the advice is clear and considered', remarked another. Practice head Matt Sumpter and litigator Justin Graham are 'impressive and work well together'. Sumpter is 'strong on strategy' and advised Motion Picture Association of America on its copyright litigation against Kim Dotcom. Graham exhibits 'great attention to detail'. Corporate partner Kelly McFadzien, who is 'a delight to work with', focuses largely on IP matters in the TMT sector and advised Dissero Brands on the sale of its RACHAEL HALE brand portfolio, copyright images and global merchandising and licensing arrangements to Jewel Branding. Senior solicitor Thomas Cleary, who joined from Shortland Chambers, is praised as 'clearly bright, responsive and easy to deal with'. He worked with Sumpter and Graham as counsel to Warner Bros and Univeral Music in a royalty dispute concerning streaming revenue for an Ed Sheeran song.

Simpson Grierson¬†in Auckland is among the few full service firms to have a specialist IP practice that not only supports the corporate team but also handles standalone litigation and commercialisation matters. The firm¬†'always provides thorough legal advice in a timely fashion and expectations are always met or exceeded'. One client remarks that it is 'excellent ‚Äď so easy to work with; responses are swift and clear'. The practice is led by two standout partners in¬†Earl Gray¬†(who has '¬†broad knowledge of not only IP, but also commercial drivers, which is invaluable') and¬†Richard Watts¬†(who 'offers excellence service'). Gray acted for Sky Network Television in High Court proceedings¬†against leading mainstream news media organisations Fairfax, NZME, MediaWorks and TVNZ, which concerned the use of rugby match and Olympic Games footage online. Watts advised The a2 Milk Company on the expansion of its brands and patented products into new markets including China and the US. Senior associates¬†Sarah Chapman¬†and Ashton Walsh¬†are also recommended.

Anthony Harper in Auckland climbs the ranking having invested in its IP practice with the hire of heavyweight litigator and IP strategy partner Mark Gavin, who joined from Hudson Gavin Martin. He brings more than 30 years' experience to the practice, which handles the full range of IP transactions, commercialisation, trade marks, disputes and enforcement, data protection and privacy matters. 'The service has continued to be first class', says one client, who describes Gavin as 'very smart, a really top litigator who is very commercial, timely and provides excellent advice'. Practice head Michael Moyes is 'technically very astute and commercially very savvy' and senior associate Jullion Nelson Parker is 'commercially aware and client-focused'. Moyes advised Canadian technology provider Nureva on the expansion of its core brands into New Zealand, and advised Ripponvale Limited on negotiations with Rippon Limited to enable it to continue trading under its core brand. Mercedes-Benz, Burger Fuel and EziBuy are also among the firm's clients.

Baldwins is a specialist intellectual property firm that comprises a patent attorney practice and an IP law practice. It is the only IP boutique to have offices in the country's three main commercial centres of Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. Between these offices, it has six partners and more than 30 IP specialists. Firm chair Wes Jones leads the practice from Auckland, where trade mark specialist Sue Ironside is regarded as a leading light in the market. Angela Searle in Christchurch is a patent attorney but also handles trade mark and brand protection matters. Partner Penny Catley in Wellington is president of the New Zealand Institute of Patent Attorneys, and is best known for trade mark and brand protection issues. The firm's extensive list of clients includes Auckland UniServices Limited, Amphenol Phitek Limited, PepsiCo, Harley-Davidson Asia-Pacific and Swatch AG.

Bell Gully is 'top notch', according to one client, who adds: 'I would not recommend another law firm'. The firm handles high-profile disputes and commercial transactions, which last year included advising Downer New Zealand on the IP aspects of its agreement to acquire the construction, infrastructure and project management businesses of Hawkins, and acting for HNA Group on the IP aspects of its acquisition of UDC Finance from ANZ Bank. Senior associate Sooyun Lee in Auckland, who provides 'very high-quality trade mark advice and is commercially strong', handled those matters. Litigation partner Tania Goatley specialises in media, advertising, privacy law and IP matters. Ian Gault also handles IP disputes as part of a broad litigation practice and frequently acts for Reckitt Benckiser in trade mark opposition and infringement cases. Alan Ringwood in Wellington leads the practice and frequently handles brand registration, infringement matters, trade mark oppositions and trade mark maintenance for Unilever plc.

Buddle Findlay is 'excellent - the advice is always prompt and practical'. One client notes that 'this is my go-to firm in New Zealand'. The firm not only handles the IP aspects of large M&A transactions, but also receives a flow of work for blue-chip clients on brand protection and trade mark matters, and its key names include patent attorney, barrister and practice head John Glengarry and newly promoted special counsel Hamish Selby, who are both based in Auckland. Glengarry counts Alibaba Group and British American Tobacco among his clients. Selby conducted pre-filing trade mark searches for Colgate-Palmolive, and frequently advises the client on search, prosecution and registration matters. Philip Wood has more than 20 years' experience in the IP field and frequently provides strategic advice on copyright for clients in the IT, film, television and music industries. In Christchurch, litigator Kelly Paterson's broad practice includes IP disputes. Consultant Andrew Matangi joined Simmonds Stewart. Graeme Hall retired.

IP and technology boutique Hudson Gavin Martin in Auckland is 'fantastic - we could use any IP firm in New Zealand to provide the specialist input required', says one client, 'but we only use this firm'. Another remarks, 'it is very good at the technical aspects, but also very commercial; it focuses on the things that really matter and is very responsive'. Practice head Jason Rudkin-Binks is singled out for particular praise. Rudkin-Binks has 20 years' experience in IP and technology, and his recent work includes advising dairy and beverage company Lion Group on brand protection. Litigator and patent attorney Tim Mahood also played a key role in this work. He advises on all aspects of IP and media law, including patent, trade mark and copyright infringement, passing off, and misleading and deceptive conduct. Simon Martin, who has extensive knowledge of licensing and franchising, assisted Vector Energy with branding rights matters arising from a venture with Auckland Council to operate solar-powered lighting on Auckland Harbour Bridge. Newly promoted senior associate Caroline Herbert is a rising star. Mark Gavin moved to Anthony Harper.

James & Wells is an intellectual property boutique that handles patents, trade marks, designs, IP commercialisation and contentious matters. Founded almost 40 years ago, the firm has a large practice that operates across four offices - Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Christchurch, handling both domestic and cross-border matters. Gus Hazel in Auckland and Ian Finch in Hamilton are among many of the firm's practitioners who are both barristers and patent attorneys. Associate and barrister Sébastien Aymeric, also based in Auckland, has extensive experience in copyright, trade marks, patents, confidential information and contract disputes. Founding partner Ceri Wells, who is a past president of the New Zealand Institute of Patent Attorneys, works between Hamilton and Christchurch and is a key adviser on IP strategy. The firm counts Original Foods Baking Co, Bayer, Kokako, Plantation Grown Timbers, Monster Energy Company and Quantec among its clients.

Kensington Swan¬†is¬†'really responsive and proactive' and one client remarks that it it 'more proactive and thorough than some of its competitors'.¬†'The team is always quick to respond and answer questions', notes another. The firm has one of the largest trade mark filing and prosecution practices among the full service law firms, and its client base includes large domestic companies such as BurgerFuel and Crimson Education, as well as international brands such as Unilever and Danone. The 'friendly, responsive and thorough' Charlotte Henley¬†in Wellington and, in Auckland, Jenni Rutter¬†are co-heads of the practice, which is 'top class ‚Äď they are trusted advisers¬†and always go the extra mile'. Rutter is praised as 'an excellent listener who is always keep quick to identify the problem and offer solutions'. She defended¬†Merisant Company in a high-profile packaging passing-off dispute. Wellington-based senior associate¬†Campbell Featherstone¬†rejoined the firm after spending five years at¬†Goodwin¬†in London, where he handled IP and technology matters for blue-chip clients.

At Lowndes in Auckland, IP is a key element of the firm's corporate and commercial practice, which handles cross-border technology, media and telecoms matters. The firm's founder and managing partner Mark Lowndes has a broad corporate practice that sees him advise on IP-related transactions, which recently included assisting key client Las Vegas Sands Corporation with the management of its trade mark portfolio. He also acted for NZPM and its subsidiary Plumbing World in a case filed by Australian company Astivitsa for the transfer of a trade mark. Director Sarah Kerr has more than 20 years' experience as a corporate lawyer, acting for clients in the life sciences, diagnostic products, nutritional supplements and natural health sectors, among others. Principal Kerri Dewe also handles corporate transactions in IP-rich industries. Litigator Jacqueline Lethbridge handles IP disputes as part of her practice. Greg France moved to EY Law Limited.

The IP practice at MinterEllisonRuddWatts in Auckland is 'excellent - the firm has a good team that builds rapport quickly and is made up of responsive and very knowledgeable strategic thinkers'. 'Strategic, thoughtful and thorough' practice head Christopher Young has more than 20 years' experience as a commercial IP lawyer handling trade marks, licensing, commercialisation, transactional IP, and IP strategy. He recently acted for Aktiebolaget SCA Finans on the management of its trade mark portfolio, commercial IP contracts and numerous disputes. For SKYCITY Entertainment Group, he handles IP strategy and contentious matters. 'His strengths include a grasp of international trade mark law and how it relates to overall strategy for protecting brands worldwide', notes one client. Corporate and commercial partner Richard Wells, whose previous experience includes a stint as in-house IP counsel for DeBeers Group, frequently advises clients in the sports industry, including event hosts and sponsors.

At Russell McVeagh, Auckland-based litigator Joe Edwards leads the marketing law, media and IP practice. His practice covers regulatory investigations and prosecutions, privacy law, intellectual property and IT disputes. Senior solicitor Rachel O’Brien, who joined from Clyde & Co LLP, has extensive expertise in trade mark, copyright and patent matters. The firm handles contentious and commercial IP issues, including those involving trade marks, designs, copyright, confidential information, joint ventures, licensing agreements, research and development arrangements, and collaboration arrangements. Edwards acted for Vector Limited in a claim against media organisation Stuff for the use of customer data with which it was provided following the hacking of Vector's app. For dairy industry giant Fonterra, he defended claims of breaches of the Fair Trading Act, passing off and trade mark infringement brought by Lewis Road Creamery in relation to the design, shape and look of certain Fonterra milk bottles.

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