South Africa

Excessive red tape and a tough economic climate have made South Africa a less appealing option for foreign investors and local patent filing numbers have remained flat in the past year. However, the government is in the process of reinvigorating the IP scene: its IP Consultative Framework (IPCF), published in 2016, outlines its IP policy objectives. The IPCF was warmly received by commentators, which welcomed it as a reaffirmation of the importance of intellectual property and a cause for optimism. Something that the IPCF has highlighted as requiring immediate action is the implementation of a substantive examination system for patents, which has been a hot topic for the last few years. Though timeframes remain uncertain, plans have begun to take shape, as a number of examiners have already been recruited and are now being trained.

Firms

1
Spoor & Fisher
2
Brian Bacon Inc
ENSafrica
Hahn & Hahn Inc
Von Seidels
3
Dessington IP
Rademeyer Attorneys
Webber Wentzel

Sitting comfortably at the top of the market, “Adams & Adams is the obvious recommendation for patent work” in the country. “It is a well-established first-tier firm that is active across Africa and its partners all demonstrate excellence in their respective fields.” With four domestic bases and another 15 associate offices across the continent, it has a dominant regional presence. Prosecution dynamo Louis Van der Walt oversees the team as patent chair. The former chemical engineer has a particularly nuanced understanding of plant breeders’ rights. Johnny Fiandeiro is also a dab hand at drawing up watertight applications, although his specialisms lie in the telecommunications and computer-implemented inventions spaces. He has been kept busy in the last year prosecuting applications for Knowroaming and Master Drilling. Providing further non-contentious support is co-head of the overseas filing practice Janice Galvad, who has recently spearheaded the firm’s shift to electronic filings and file management. On the contentious front, talented cross-border litigator Russell Bagnall takes command. He has spent many years sharpening his knowledge of the pharmaceuticals and chemistry domains; as has Dario Tanziani, who possesses over 25 years’ experience in patent litigation involving blockbuster drugs. Tanziani is also adroit at getting signatures on the dotted line of lucrative transactions and has recently been working on over 120 briefs on behalf of General Electric in relation to its name change. Life sciences, chemistry, information technology and consumer goods all fall under the purview of Alexis Apostolidis, who is an authoritative voice operating at the confluence of IP and competition law. Completing the set is Danie Dohmen who often finds himself representing leading drugs companies; his refined argumentation skills have proved decisive in a number of landmark patent cases throughout a glittering career.

Brian Bacon Inc

A tailored service at reasonable rates makes Brian Bacon an appealing option for patent owners of all stripes. “A small but active player on the local market, it has made a name for itself in representing generics pharmaceutical companies.” This can principally be attributed to life sciences connoisseur Tim Ball, whose silver-tongued courtroom performances have seen him take on a considerable share of the country’s high-stakes patent litigation in the last decade. “He is truly excellent and should be the first person to seek if you need advice.” Colin Truter is another contentious sharpshooter who also has a special talent for prosecuting patents in a variety of technical fields.

Dessington IP

Despite standing out for its prosecution prowess, Dessington IP has an all-encompassing patent practice. When disagreements arise, it will prioritise shrewd negotiations instead of costly litigation wherever possible, securing cost-effective, win-win solutions for its devoted clientele. Director Antony Dessington has a keen appreciation for the commercial value of intangible assets. A gifted draftsman, he is particularly adept in the mining, engineering, chemistry and high-technology domains.

ENSafrica

Delivering “a prompt service with a very hands-on approach”, “ENSafrica’s staff are always available to deal with any problems that may arise from your portfolio”. The largest law firm in Africa, it has cultivated longstanding relationships across the region and now has an immense pan-continental network at its disposal. Moreover, its vibrant corporate divisions give it a broader perspective on clients’ IP assets. As such, its fast-growing patent practice, which works harmoniously with dedicated sector teams, consistently adds strategic value to all instructions. The “very efficient” Joanne van Harmelen is “one of the top IP lawyers in the biotechnology space. She offers discerning guidance that enables a business to effectively position itself with respect to the global IP landscape”. She has recently been busy implementing and overseeing sophisticated patent management programmes for AzarGen Biotechnologies and the University of Cape Town. Fellow patent director Rowan Forster draws on over two decades of IP experience and his chemistry background to stunning effect; the “client-focused” practitioner “proactively attends to issues and always demonstrates a commitment to further improving relationships with his clients”.

Hahn & Hahn Inc

Offering precision prosecution services and cast-iron defensive strategies, Hahn & Hahn has garnered an ardent client following. With technical and legal experts fluent in multiple languages, the boutique is a first choice for international patent filers with complex transnational concerns. The perceptive Janusz Luterek is one of several polyglots; although capable across the patent lifecycle, he is the firm’s trump card for litigation and is especially adroit in the petrochemical, pharmaceutical and IT sectors.

As the oldest IP firm in South Africa, KISCH IP has a rock-solid reputation – “its true professionals deliver work of outstanding quality”. Its rich history is complemented by a resolutely forwardthinking attitude. It is home to a rigorous prosecution practice and its contentious capabilities are also finely honed – in the last year the set has racked up a number of victories in the Supreme Court of Appeal. Many of these can be attributed to patent head At van Rooy, a sage litigator who has been handling numerous life sciences cases of late. He and Adelhart Krüger are both “very competent and solid practitioners”. As firm chair, Krüger straddles both sides of the practice and is a first port of call for any electronic engineering issues. For all chemicalrelated queries, Ursula Baravalle takes the lead. One client avers: “She is among the best patent attorneys I have ever worked with. Always ready to assist with a smile, she has a real passion for her work.” The “highly qualified and excellent” Baravalle has lately been managing the substantial portfolios of North West University and the University of the Free State.

Rademeyer Attorneys

A merger between Rademeyer Attorneys and McCallum Rademeyer and Freimond resulted in a doubly potent IP practice, with over 47 years’ collective experience. Its non-contentious prowess drives the patent offering, but its team is also a potent sword and shield when infringements arise. As testament to its business-oriented approach, the firm’s mantelpiece is adorned with a number of client service awards. Monty Rademeyer is the man to call.

Spoor & Fisher

“Worth its weight in gold and always a considerable opponent”, Spoor & Fisher houses one of the biggest and most technically astute teams in the country. “It is a principal competitor in South Africa and has quality practitioners at every level.” With piercing industry-specific insight and a far-reaching trans-continental network, the firm is a safe bet for international patent filings; however, its dedicated enforcement and commercialisation departments also sit at the pinnacle of the market. Team captain Lance Abramson cuts a dash in both filing and litigation. “He is a standout in the electronics and software spaces in particular – he is a leader in those fields and head and shoulders above anybody else.” Lodewyk Cilliers is another non-contentious ace; formerly a nuclear energy engineer, he has a real affinity for mechanical and general engineering inventions. In a similar vein, Keith Brown – a former Patent Examination Board examiner – showcases “solid mechanical, electrical and technical expertise”. On the chemistry side, Mark Kemp and David Cochrane are the dons; they also have cutting-edge knowledge of the metallurgical and biochemical spheres. John McKnight is another skilled chemist whose metier is the life sciences. He can frequently be found at the negotiating table shepherding key technology transfer deals over the line. Fellow transactional whizz Dina Biagio consummately brokers multi-layered IP licensing and commercial agreements. Meanwhile, Hugh Moubray and Jonathan Whittaker attract warm plaudits for their robust enforcement. Moubray “is immensely experienced at patent litigation”, while Whittaker is “impressive because he is simply effective – unconstrained by archaic processes or practice, he always gets the job done”.

Von Seidels

Von Seidels “Punching well above its weight, Von Seidels has really shaken up the market since coming to the fore”. The “dynamic”, “extremely impressive” boutique “manages a substantial volume of applications and, for the last few years, has been the leading firm in terms of Patent Cooperation Treaty filings”. “It has a roster of young professionals which gives it the energy and vigour that older firms might not have”, and “a solid client base. It is probably making more headway in the patent field than any other firm in the country”. Much of its rapid growth can be attributed to the “well-connected” Bastiaan Koster, who “has done a stellar job of managing the firm”. The “first-rate practitioner” has carved a niche for himself in the plant breeders’ rights space. Few can rival Mike von Seidel’s limitless patent know-how; he has accumulated over four decades’ worth of drafting expertise and has a virtually unmatched success rate for foreign applications. Èrik van der Vyer “runs an impressive practice and has a strong international profile”. He is a master of the electronics and computer implementation domains; as is the “very responsive and helpful” Ralph van Niekerk, who is “incredibly experienced at the intersection of high-technology and intellectual property” and “both a first-rate patent attorney and person”. Rowan Joseph consistently delivers when it comes to litigation, particularly on sophisticated pharmaceutical mandates. “A pleasure to deal with, he performs work in a timely manner and to a high quality.” Fellow litigator Sandra Clelland is “a tremendous asset to have on your team” and one of the finest legal minds for biotechnology and chemistry briefs. “Dedicated and honest, she has a firm grasp of all matters in genetic engineering. She also wields a complete understanding of international patent law and can be relied upon for sound and realistic opinions for drafting applications.” Clelland, von Seidel, van der Vyer, van Niekerk and Joseph all advise Stellenbosch University across the gamut of technologies.

Webber Wentzel

Elite commercial outfit Webber Wentzel offers an outstanding service for corporate IP mandates. Drawing on the firm’s abundant resources, its IP transactions team laces its counsel with insight from adjacent areas – from employment and tax to competition law and dispute resolution – and can assemble the right talent to shepherd any deal to close. Leading ladies Leanne Mostert and Bernadette Versfeld adopt a mile-high view of clients’ intangible rights and are a formidable pair of negotiators. “Meticulous in her attention to detail”, the “practical and accessible” Mostert has been assisting Kapa Biosystems with a complex transaction involving an intricate web of IP arrangements. Although experienced in the protection of IP assets, Versfeld focuses on the optimisation of rights to derive the maximum value from clients’ portfolios.

Individuals: transactions

Dina Biagio - Spoor & Fisher
John McKnight - Spoor & Fisher
Leanne Mostert - Webber Wentzel
Bernadette Versfeld - Webber Wentzel

Individuals: prosecution

Lance Abramson - Spoor & Fisher
Keith Brown - Spoor & Fisher
Lodewyk Cilliers - Spoor & Fisher
Sandra Clelland - Von Seidels
David Cochrane - Spoor & Fisher
Antony Dessington - Dessington IP
Johnny Fiandeiro - Adams & Adams
Rowan Forster - ENSafrica
Janice Galvad - Adams & Adams
Mark Kemp - Spoor & Fisher
Bastiaan Koster - Von Seidels
Janusz Luterek - Hahn & Hahn Inc
Colin Truter - Brian Bacon Inc
Érik van der Vyver - Von Seidels
Louis Van der Walt - Adams & Adams
Joanne van Harmelen - ENSafrica
Ralph van Niekerk - Von Seidels
Mike von Seidel - Von Seidels

Individuals: litigation

Russell Bagnall - Adams & Adams
Tim Ball - Brian Bacon Inc
Danie Dohmen - Adams & Adams
Hugh Moubray - Spoor & Fisher
Jonathan Whittaker - Spoor & Fisher
Alexis Apostolidis - Adams & Adams
Rowan Joseph - Von Seidels
Dario Tanziani - Adams & Adams
At van Rooy - KISCH IP
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Issue 87