The IP landscape in South Africa is changing. There are still questions lingering over the country’s new IP policy but overall there is a sense of optimism that the government will be able stimulate and encourage local innovation. Meanwhile, the big five accountancy firms in the region are diversifying and moving into the legal space and as a result the established law firms in the South African market must raise their game to consolidate their positions and augment the way in which legal services are delivered.
- Adams & Adams
- Spoor & Fisher
- Brian Bacon Inc
- KISCH IP
- Von Seidels
- Hahn & Hahn Inc
- Webber Wentzel
A colossus of the African IP and patent space, Adams & Adams has 25 offices and a network of contacts stationed across the entire continent. Representing almost half of the Fortune 500, the firm has cultivated an exemplary track record and garners outstanding feedback as a result. “The team regularly and comprehensively provides status updates and exhibits unwavering professionalism at every turn. The practitioners there are true specialists and consistently impressive with their strategic recommendations and the results they achieve.” The depth of the firm’s roster of elite patent litigators is a key distinguishing feature; in the life sciences and chemistry domains, Russell Bagnall, Dario Tanziani and Alexis Apostolidis acquit themselves with rare distinction. “Bagnall is incredibly solid, experienced and bright – one of the top litigators in South Africa.” Fighting over blockbuster drugs and setting litigation benchmarks is par for the course for Tanziani, who is a former chairman of the firm and has decades of experience on his résumé. “Thorough, diligent and exceptionally knowledgeable, Apostolidis really knows how to handle himself in court,” his regulatory and competition law expertise is a boon to those not just in pharmaceuticals but to companies in a variety of sectors. Matching litigation talent with transactional prowess, Danie Dohmen is the guy to call when in a bind. He has made a key contribution to the IP policy discussion in South Africa and beyond. The prosecution side of the practice is equally impressive, which is anchored by Louis van der Walt. “He is highly skilled at drafting and prosecuting local and overseas patent applications and deploys an exemplary technical understanding of chemical and process engineering inventions, as well as of patent law in many foreign jurisdictions.” Another international thinker and fellow chemist, Pieter Visagie “can always be relied on to give sound, business-minded advice to ensure the efficient management of portfolios”. A crucial port of call for foreign clients obtaining protection in South Africa is Janice Galvad who, as patent department chair, has been instrumental in bringing about electronic filing and management practices at the firm. A market-leading all-rounder comes in the form of Johnny Fiandeiro. He straddles the contentious/non-contentious divide with dexterity and is an absolute ace with all things concerning patent, design and copyright law. He is in his element when dealing with telecoms and computer implemented inventions.
Brian Bacon Inc
Cape Town outfit Brian Bacon, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2018, is “extremely active on the scene and has made an excellent name for itself representing generic pharmaceutical companies in patent litigation”. Its impressive achievements, attractive rates and personalised service make it an ever-popular choice. Attending to the needs of drug companies is Tim Ball, a “tremendous and experienced litigator”. Colin Truter is adept at handling litigation, but his talents primarily lie in non-contentious work and prosecution. He comes from a mechanical engineering background but is not someone who is easily pigeonholed from a technical standpoint; he has protected innovations to the hilt across a diverse assortment of fields and industries. Respondents particularly praised his exceptional abilities as a prosecutor.
Africa’s largest law firm, ENSafrica is unified by a customer-centric culture, which enables it to furnish clients with an integrated service covering every conceivable legal need. By itself, the IP unit covers all bases for patent owners and is a go-to for holistic solutions; as testament to this, many blue-chip companies have entrusted the firm with the management of their portfolios, moving on from previous relationships in the process. Among the side’s most sought-after professionals are Rowan Forster and Joann van Harmelen who have the firm’s agrochemical, pharmaceutical and biotech practices running like a well-oiled machine. Van Harmelen, who heads up the life sciences practice, was previously chief scientific officer at the University of Cape Town – an institution she continues to assist in connection with patent management. Joining them in the IAM Patent 1000 this year for the first time is Waldo Steyn who helms a bustling commercial IP practice.
Hahn & Hahn Inc
Hahn & Hahn is a repository of trust for a varied roster of clients with cutting-edge innovations in the life sciences and high-tech landscapes. The cosmopolitan Hahn & Hahn crew – which includes attorneys who speak multiple European languages as well as Korean – acquits itself with distinction on domestic and cross-border prosecution and litigation tasks. For a point of contact and an outstanding chemical engineering expert – particularly in relation to food science – look to Janusz Luterek.
KISCH IP is an enduring name on the international IP scene – it was established in 1874 – and is a vital ally to world-leading brands who want to take advantage of commercial opportunities not just in South Africa but across the continent. From a technical standpoint, nothing is off limits for the ISO 9001-certified firm, which secures patent registrations and litigation wins with a minimum amount of fuss. Chairman of the firm Adelhart Krüger traverses the contentious/non-contentious divide artfully while maintaining a focus on the electrical arts. His international experience sets him apart. Resolute leadership is also provided by At van Rooy, who captains the patent division; life sciences litigation is his meat and drink. Another life chemical and pharmaceutical aficionado is Ursula Baravalle, a draftswoman and prosecutor extraordinaire. She is the go-to for a leading petrochemical company for matters concerning patent portfolio protection and development and she also acts for several leading universities.
Spoor & Fisher
In terms of strength and depth of patent practice, Spoor & Fisher is virtually unrivalled in Africa. Built to satisfy global companies which demand the very best in patent protection and enforcement, the firm has an elite expert for every technical area. Life sciences companies have options galore, the “incredibly attentive, responsive, thorough and collaborative”, David Cochrane is “very skilled at prosecution not just in South Africa but in many jurisdictions”. Another international operator, Mark Kemp is a top-choice for US and UK companies looking to get pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products on shop shelves and keep them there. Erstwhile deputy head of patents at Reckitt Benckiser, John McKnight draws on outstanding industry knowledge to secure patent assets and then commercially exploit them. Meanwhile, anchoring the high-tech practice is Lance Abramson, “a software specialist at the top of his game”. As one interviewee enthuses: “Lance is really personable and provides down-to-earth, solid advice backed by a wealth of experience.” The main man for anything mechanical is Lodewyk Cilliers. Allowing the firm’s practitioners to focus on their files while also ensuring all work is transacted swiftly and efficiently is an excellent patent formalities department, which is captained by the experienced attorney David Gilson. When trouble brews, the firm has senior litigators who do not just bring comfort but inspire confidence. “Calm, pragmatic and determined,” Hugh Moubray is as dependable as they come when things get contentious. “He does thorough research and is excellent at preparing winning case strategies – he brings lots of creative ideas to the table to help drive cases forward.” He and Jonathan Whittaker litigate disputes in a plethora of technical areas and industries with poise. While many individuals contribute to the set’s buzzing transactional IP practice, Dina Biagio stands out for her licensing expertise. She has a striking ability to confect IP structures that put her clients in the best financial and regulatory positions.
“Innovative and dynamic,” ISO 9001-certified firm Von Seidels is a prolific patent filer; it secures protection across the country for a host of foreign companies and is among the statistical leaders when it comes to Patent Cooperation Treaty filings. The ensemble is currently on a roll and is fielding an increasing volume of instructions from renowned research institutions and companies developing disruptive technologies. “Von Seidels has quality practitioners at every level” but garnering particularly positive feedback this year is Ralph van Niekerk, a computing, software and electronics expert with the magic touch when it comes to patent portfolio development. “Ralph’s work is thorough, concise and accurate. He is accessible and an excellent communicator who explains complex concepts in a way that is easy to understand. As a bonus, he puts on informative events that build a sense of community among inventors and entrepreneurs.” Together with fellow high-tech buff Érik van der Vyver, the two make a dream team: “They really understand their clients’ businesses and the IP space in which they operate. They fully grasp your technology and have a rare ability to identify gaps in protection and fill them. They are really sharp and true experts in their field.” Head of the African patent and designs practice Gunther Roland is another crucial contact at the senior level. Focusing on the electrical and mechanical arts, he has a bustling practice advising a leading energy drink company, a top university and an award-winning medical device company. Roland frequently joins forces with Rowan Joseph, an experienced litigator who also deftly dispatches prosecution and licensing matters. Joseph’s presence alongside head of biotech Sandra Clelland and Llewellyn du Toit make the life sciences a bastion of strength for the firm. Du Toit debuts in the IAM Patent 1000 this year; supplying valuable in-house experience as an IP consultant with a top tech transfer office, he has a unique insight into the needs of his clients and the challenges they face. Finally, for those with the most diverse IP portfolios, Bastiaan Koster is a smart choice – he is a master of the branding and patent trades.
Webber Wentzel shines brightly in South Africa because of its passion for innovation; this has led to some interesting developments the firm has been involved in, such as the establishment of an incubation programme targeted at disruptive start-ups – dubbed ‘Webber Wentzel Ignite’ – and the integration of, inter alia, leading data and IP exchange control expertise into the Webber patent and technology practice. Leanne Mostert provides inspiring leadership to the crew and makes the firm a destination for guidance on IP strategy and commercialisation. Bernadette Versfeld also knows how to get a signature on the dotted line of an IP contract but is equally effective as a pan-continental IP portfolio manager and enforcement ace.
Other recommended expertsAntony Dessington of Dessington IP is a go-to practitioner when it comes to mining engineering and chemical process technologies. Smit & Van Wyk’s Wessel van Wyk, is “a skilled patent specification draftsman”, he is also an expert in the aerospace industry – in which he spent more than 10 years in technical and management roles – he is a highly sought after patent attorney in the electrical arts.
- 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
- Lance Abramson - Spoor & Fisher
- Ursula Baravalle - KISCH IP
- 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
- David Gilson - Spoor & Fisher
- Mark Kemp - Spoor & Fisher
- Bastiaan Koster - Von Seidels
- Adelhart Krüger - KISCH IP
- Janusz Luterek - Hahn & Hahn Inc
- Gunther Roland - Von Seidels
- 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
- Wessel van Wyk - Smit & Van Wyk Inc
- Pieter Visagie - Adams & Adams
- Dina Biagio - Spoor & Fisher
- Llewellyn du Toit - Von Seidels
- John McKnight - Spoor & Fisher
- Leanne Mostert - Webber Wentzel
- Waldo Steyn - ENSafrica
- Bernadette Versfeld - Webber Wentzel