ENS (Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs) has appointed Chris Bull, considered one of the world’s leading patent and technology licensing lawyers, as a director in the firm’s Intellectual Property (IP) department.
Bull’s move to ENS, along with the firm’s appointment of a number of other top IP lawyers, signals a major power shift in the South African IP law industry, as it positions ENS as the only full-service law firm in Africa with a full service IP department.
Bull, the former Chairman of the Executive Committee and Head of the Patent and Technology Commercial Department of boutique IP firm Spoor & Fisher, says his move from a boutique IP firm to a full service law firm mirrors developments in the IP industry that have been seen in North America, Europe and China.
“Intellectual property lies at the heart of many businesses, whether its value is recognised or not. Many corporate clients though, are finding challenges in the model of managing their IP services through a specialist IP firm, while all of their other legal requirements are handled by a single, large law firm. This is particularly so where clients are looking for more than vanilla patent and trade mark support.”
Against this background, Bull says he has no doubt that boutique IP services firms will continue to play a role in providing IP services in South Africa. However, he says the industry will also see full service law firms playing an ever more important and central role in IP services in South Africa – particularly for corporate clients.
According to Bull intellectual property assets require active management, nurturing and professional services support. He says this requires the professional services firm that is responsible for intellectual property management to also have capabilities in the other legal areas such as Mergers & Acquisitions, Licensing, Joint ventures, Competition Law, Tax, Transfer pricing, Industry expertise and litigation.
“One cannot effectively manage a portfolio of intellectual property in a corporate environment without considering the way in which the ownership is structured from a tax perspective; or how intra-group licensing arrangements are established from a transfer pricing point of view; or how intellectual property is dealt with in any M&A activities; or how competition law issues might impact on efforts to enforce your intellectual property rights,” says Bull.
Bull says ENS is committed to building an IP services experience that is far superior to anything currently available to clients in the South African and African markets.