Interview with: Jamshid Agzamkhadjaev, Managing partner

SETTLE law firm | View firm profile

Interview with Jamshid Agzamkhadjaev, a managing partner of Settle law firm, about how his firm is adapting to clients’ changing needs.

What do you see as the main points that differentiate SETTLE law firm from your competitors?

We are a law firm that mainly focuses on intellectual property matters in Uzbekistan. Knowledge and experience of our attorney help us provide legal services at most cost-efficient way allowing our clients to enjoy comprehensive and complex legal work from us. We believe that intellectual property issues require specific knowledge and qualification. Our attorneys are experienced in a wide range of IP issues starting from trademark cancellation actions and patent litigations to fighting parallel import and counterfeits. We believe that narrow specialization is one of our biggest advantages that differentiate us from our competitors. Paying our main attention to IP matters makes us actively improve our skills and knowledge to stay up-to-date about changes, trends and issues raising in the IP sphere not only in Uzbekistan but around the globe.

 

During the years passed, our attorneys have successfully represented giant companies such as Ferrero (FMCG), Dr. Reddy’s (Pharmaceuticals), Starbucks (Coffee company), Moet Hennessy (wines & spirits) and many others in Uzbek judicial and law enforcement authorities. Numerous court trials that were led by our attorneys allow us to offer more comprehensive recommendations for our clients based on our prior experience and knowledge, and the ability to predict possible next steps of the counterparties. Given that Uzbek laws still have some uncertainty in terms of some specific disputes, which create room for subjective interpretation of laws and principles, it is crucial for us to have proper judicial practice in order to enhance chances of our clients and give realistic expectation to them.

 

Apart from intellectual property cases, we also have a number of clients that rely on us on their daily business activities. Therefore, we also provide general commercial law services covering areas such as contracts, employment, licensing, etc.

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

Customs measures, as well as customs registry of IP objects are still relevant topic in Uzbekistan. Amending the Customs Code back in 2016 did not eliminate all barriers for right-holders in terms of fighting against import of counterfeit products and parallel (grey) import of genuine products effectively. However, Uzbekistan is carrying out preparatory work to join WTO and Eurasian Economic Union. This means the state will have to adopt tougher rules in order to create favorable conditions for sale of goods and protection of IP rights. In this regard, we believe that ex officio power of customs authority and practice of restricting import of counterfeit products as well as fighting against parallel (grey) import of genuine goods will be growing.

 

Moreover, we are expecting growth in a number of trademark cancellation actions due to amendments of the Uzbek Trademark Law in terms of grace period for cancellation of trademark due to non-use. Current edition of the Law provides 5 years grace period, whereas according to Presidential Decree #4168, this period shall be reduced to 3 years. This means that the number of trademark cancellation cases will increase significantly, because 3 years grace period provides more chances for application to contest the trademark due to non-use. This creates some level of risks for our clients, who registered their trademarks but did not have a chance to use them properly and timely. Therefore, we are implementing a range of measures in order to prevent trademarks of our clients from becoming vulnerable for non-use cancellation actions.

 

Finally, from the commercial law perspective, which is another specific area of expertise of our law firm, we believe that Aviation practice will be growing in the next 12 months. Uzbek government has recently held Central Asia’s Largest Aviation & Airports Forum attracting the world’s big names in Aviation & Airports sector. As a result of this forum Uzbek government managed to sign agreements with a number of airlines, mainly from Middle East, to operate flights to and from Uzbekistan. Some of these airlines have already established their local offices in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

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

As a part of our commitment to provide better and more efficient services we are offering free monitoring services for our clients. Monitoring is mainly focused on trademark applications, that are filed in Uzbekistan by third parties, some with bad faith intentions, as well as monitoring retails stores and markets physically in order to detect the sale of infringing products. Usually, our clients ask us to conduct separate and more detailed monitoring, but sometimes we conduct monitorings on our own initiative. In my opinion, clients benefit from periodical alert e-mails and monitoring reports because any information about potential breach of their rights or even theft of their brands is useful for them.

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

Technologies make our interaction with our clients easier. We’ve implemented an electronic document management system that helps both us and our clients exchange documents in faster and more convenient way without the need to exchange hard copies. We believe that it saves much time and resources for both parties.

 

Another way we are using technologies for our own and clients’ benefits is through actively using CRM system that allows us to manage cases effectively, keep important documents, notes, e-mail correspondence with client safely all in one place and provide the client with detailed reports on actions taken and work done by our attorneys. This kind of report shows the amount of our input into the case, as well as value of such actions for the clients in monetary form.

 

Furthermore, we are actively using governmental services that allows us to gather information and evidences in a very effective way. This includes information about the potential infringer, its stakeholders, possible links with other companies, sometimes assets, goods imported etc. This saves much time, because before we had to gather all this information through filing attorney requests, waiting for responses and sometimes even struggling to get the response due to human factor. Now when gathering information for our clients has become much easier and faster, we can spend our times on more important tasks.

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

We have a client in pharmaceuticals sector with offices in Switzerland, Turkey, Georgia and Uzbekistan. As pharmaceuticals is one of the most “hot” areas of IP law with giant pharmaceutical companies spending millions USD on lawsuits against each other, we made a full due diligence from the perspective of IP security of the client’s business, which revealed that a bunch of trademark and patent objects are not protected in any way, while there are a number of companies with bad faith intentions that take advantage of using trade names confusingly similar with the client’s original products. As a result of our hard work and professional recommendation, the client is now in much safer position in the market from the perspective of IP protection, as we significantly decreased the risk of brand theft and recommended to register brands long before the goods are being imported into the market.

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

We offer our clients stable terms and conditions as part of our co-operation. We usually work on a pre-agreed fixed payment scheme, but when we work on hourly rates, we apply “capped” fees so that our clients know their maximal budget allocated for a particular case. Apart from having stable “financial” relationship with their law firms, we believe that they also value the ‘one shop’ option which their law firms may offer. Therefore, in three years time we hope to expand in the region through opening our branches in other countries of Central Asia as well. Furthermore, we plan to expand our both IP and corporate law teams, because more often than not clients have questions regarding general corporate law and related areas, rather than purely regarding IP law.