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Editha Hechanova, Managing partner

Managing partner Editha Hechanova explains how the firm is adapting to clients’ changing needs.

What do you see as the main points that differentiate Hechanova Bugay Vilchez & Andaya-Racadio from your competitors?

We have a strong intellectual property law practice as supported by our affiliated firm Hechanova & Co., Inc. which does the prosecution and litigation support services, which is further enhanced by the other fields of law that the firm is engaged in such as taxation, corporate law, immigration and employment, and vice-versa, hence, in the area of commercial transactions, we are able to provide a more comprehensive advise to our clients.

Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

We see more growth in the fields of intellectual property law, corporate law and taxation. The Philippines has been removed from the USTR 301 list, but still has to exert more efforts in combating anti-counterfeiting, and with President Duterte’s administration taking a more balanced position in its foreign relations policy, and crackdown on corruption, we anticipate more activities in the enforcement of intellectual property rights. The Philippines has just implemented its competition law, and we see many changes that would occur in business practices for compliance with its regulations. The planned tax reforms, easier rules for compliance with business registration requirements are expected to encourage the establishment of micro, small and medium sized businesses which drive the Philippine economy.

What's the main change you've made in the firm that will benefit clients?

We are investing more in training our people to enhance not only their technical capabilities but also their level of social awareness, allowing them to share their expertise with other members of the firm, so that we could improve the delivery of our services to our clients: quick, accurate, meaningful and economical response to the needs of the clients.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

We see technology as both enhancing and challenging in providing our services to the client. Technology allows us access to various tools which enhance our services, but also demands awareness of risks in the matters relating to privacy and ethical concerns.

Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

Just in the last few months, our advice was sought by Fuji Xerox Co., Ltd. and Xerox Corporation which were concerned about the proliferation of unauthorized business name registrations in the Philippines containing its famous trademark “XEROX”. For over seven years, they have tried sending cease and desist letters, publishing warning notices, and about to file formal complaints against these unauthorized users. As of September, 2016, there were about over 400 registered business names of small and medium-sized businesses, with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) with the mark “XEROX” without its consent, and was fearful that the term would be genericised. Suing these 400 unauthorized users would certainly be a huge expense. We helped said client by explaining the policies, organization structure, rules and regulations of the DTI; discussions with the DTI Legal Services officials on the implementation of its rules; and arranging the meeting between the Japanese representatives of Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd., Xerox Corp.with said DTI representatives. The DTI Legal Services consulted the relevant bureaus within the DTI on the “XEROX” issue.

In said meeting, the DTI Business Name Registration Director committed to ensure that applicants with proposed business name which has “XEROX” in it will not be accepted, and to send notices to those already with registration reminding them that they should not use the term “XEROX” without the consent of its owner, and encouraged them to voluntarily correct their business name registrations at no cost. Said notices have just been sent. A business name registration has a term of five years. The client is aware that the problem could not be solved immediately, but a gradual reduction of said business name registrations within the next five years or so appears to be a move in the right direction of protecting the mark “XEROX”, without heavy spending for litigation expenses, which option is still open.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms - where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

Certainly, clients look for stability, but we believe that their main concern would be the expertise in the fields of law that affect them which would be central to whatever business or non-business strategies they may have. We expect that within three years we would have offices in two major cities in the Philippines, and some of our lawyers qualified to practice in other Asian jurisdictions, if allowed.

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