Hamilton IP experts among world's best
Two Hamilton intellectual property specialists have been ranked among the world's best in the field.
Kate Wilson and Ian Finch, partners at the headquarters of law firm James and Wells, in Hamilton, were singled out by influential publication Intellectual Asset Management (IAM) for leading the way in the intellectual property (IP) sector.
IP covers the intangible assets of a business - design, functionality, systems and branding that comes out of an object or idea - and the firm deals with traditional IP patents and trademarking law, as well as strategic solutions like helping clients export IP to foreign markets.
IAM magazine puts out an annual guide of the top strategy practitioners in IP and this year also released an inaugural guide for the best-in-class patent specialists.
Wilson made the list of the 300 best international strategists for the second year running. She was named last year and was the first Kiwi to make the list, while Finch was named in the 1000-strong list of patent litigators.
Auckland-based Simon Rowell is the only other Kiwi to make the lists.
It is another confirmation of quality work for James and Wells which, for the past three years, has been ranked New Zealand's top IP firm.
Wilson, who has a background in science, joined James and Wells 25 years ago and works alongside companies like the Gallagher Group as a strategy adviser, identifying where companies can leverage assets and break into overseas markets.
"What I love about it is, for someone who gets bored easily, there's something new every day," Wilson said.
Finch, the Hamilton firm's managing partner, has a law background and has been involved in IP since starting with the firm 20 years ago. He cites the interface between law and business as the motivator to specialise in the area.
"We don't focus on legal problems, we focus on commercial solutions," he said.
"We're providing pragmatic advice to businesses and helping them go forward and in that regard it's quite a positive area of the law to be involved in when a lot of what lawyers do can be quite negative."
Finch identified the Waikato region as fertile ground for IP, a growing and profitable sector, because of the strength of the dairy industry and the innovative attitude of farmers and spin-off markets, like horticulture, in the area.
But thinking beyond a New Zealand market is where local businesses tend to struggle, he said.
New Zealand files the fourth highest number of domestic patents per capita in the world but in international patent applications, drops to 25th most proactive.
"That to me reflects that there is a discontinuity, people recognise they've got something but they don't see the ability to take it further and that's where we fall down, in strategic thinking."
Around 80 per cent of a company's assets are in intangible forms, Wilson said, and IP is all about identifying those assets and helps companies to protect and develop them.
"People go to the doctor when they're sick, the lawyer when they're in trouble and the accountant when they've got tax problems.
"They come to us because they've got a great idea, they've got something positive that they want to take forward."
Wilson and Finch are advocates of demystifying IP law for the general public.
They say businesses which become better acquainted with IP have a competitive advantage.
The pair want to help businesses understand how they can increase business value through IP and have released basic free-to-access information through the James and Wells website to help generate more versatile thinking.
Plans to develop videos and podcasts with quick lessons about IP are under development and will be added to the free website services.
"It's about setting time aside to look at your business from a strategic viewpoint," Wilson said.
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