The IPM Awards 2011

This member of the IPKat team put in an appearance last night at Intellectual Property Magazine's 2011 Awards ceremony, which was held in the sumptuous premises of the Grand Connaught, Great Queen Street, a stone's-throw from London's ever-fashionable Covent Garden.  It was lovely to meet some of the short-listed nominees for this year's garlands and to catch up on news from colleagues from around the world.

Since most readers are probably more interested in who won than in anything else, the Kat will cut to the chase.  The winners were as follows:

  • Copyright law firm of the year: Berwin Leighton Paisner
  • Trade mark law firm of the year: Grau & Angulo
  • Patent law firm of the year: Allen & Overy
  • IP law firm of the year in an emerging market: Remfry & Sagar
  • IP Law firm of the year: Allen & Overy
  • Domain name/online strategy of the year: Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton for the Namealizer, a domain name evaluation tool
  • Outstanding IP portfolio management/development in business: Lupin Pharmaceuticals
  • Innovative IP strategy design or execution: Allied Security Trust
  • Young IP lawyer or executive of the year: Christopher Stothers (Arnold & Porter)
  • IP lawyer/executive of the year: Anna-Lena Wolfe (Tetra Pak)
  • CEO of the year: Fran Nevrkla from PPL.and Allied Security Trust’s Daniel M McCurdy.

In congratulating all of the winners, this Kat would also like to say some encouraging things about those who were short-listed but did not succeed: on the whole, the standard of the nominations was remarkably high and really impressive. Without divulging any state secrets, he can say that every one of the award categories was keenly contested, which was why the adjudication meeting was so long and arduous. He was particularly impressed by all the entries for Young IP Lawyer/Executive, each of whom would not have been out of place on the list of entries for [old] IP Lawyer/Executive.

In the course of discussion, some very interesting issues arose. For example, in the 'IP law firm of the year in an emerging market' category, should there be separate classes for firms originating in those markets and those which, as international or at least multinational practices, have been able to focus their resources and their expertise into those same markets? Different skills and mind-sets are demanded in each case and different challenges are faced. Also, how does one compare and contrast the IP portfolio management tasks faced by (i) corporations with massive proprietary IP which they must protect, monitor, enforce and monetarise, and (ii) corporations with slender IP assets of their own, operating in markets where others hold the rights and where survival depends on dodging between the raindrops by not infringing, on taking favourable licences where necessary and on successfully challenging the scope or validity of third party rights if need be.

The trainee's first seat at a
ground-breaking law firm ...
As well as his words of praise and comfort for all those who made it to the short-list, this Kat, wearing his judicial hat, also has a little constructive suggestion which, he hopes, will improve the quality of next year's submissions.  First, he noted that not all entrants -- even those short-listed -- kept as close as they might have done to the informational requirements with which they were asked to comply. This made the task of judging harder for the judges, who try to compare like with like as closely as possible when the requested data is provided. Secondly, he respectfully reminds those who are drafting the submissions that there is a fine line between honestly listing one's fine achievements and, for want of a better term, self-praise. Finally, he earnestly hopes that the firms in practice will soon quit the building construction industry and get back to the law. Almost all of them this year appear to spend their time doing work which is "ground-breaking" or at least "laying the foundations" ...
The IPM Awards 2011 The IPM Awards 2011 Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, November 17, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. Talking of awards - did the IP KAT spot this?

    Will it be lending its support and vote to the first entry on the list?

  2. "In the course of discussion, some very interesting issues arose. For example, in the 'IP law firm of the year in an emerging market' category, should there be separate classes for firms originating in those markets"

    Goddamn right as far as India is concerned.

    Reason 1:
    Indian law firms, particularly IP firms, are not equal opportunity employers. The leading financial law firms are based in the commercial capital Bombay. Unfortunately, the IP hub of India is the government capital Delhi, where corruption is a way of life. In Bombay, lawyers are usually recruited on merit and, occasionally, based on how much clout their parents wield. In Delhi, the reverse is true, especially in the IP firms. Not a single IP firm has a website where they will tell you which universities their associates went to, how they recruit lawyers etc.

    Reason 2:
    The legal profession in India is dominated by firms which are family establishments and only members of the family get to own a share of the partnership. As a result, there are many competent breakaway firms founded by lawyers who once worked in such family establishments. Some of them are Oxbridge/Ivy League grads with great bios, but will rarely get noticed by dog-and-pony IP award shows (no offence).

    Thus, when you say that X firm is India's best IP firm, you must disclose the criteria based on which you made that call. Did you consider firms in Bombay? Did you look at the bios of the associates?

  3. Can't discriminate against firms with Oxbridge/Ivy League backgrounds. That just isn't cricket. Where would we be if the world judged these people on their ability rather than the establishments their parents could afford to send them? A meritocracy? Heaven forbid!

    I use Remfry because I trust them, through experience. There appears to be a problem in India with all and sundry labelling themselves as patent attorneys/agents etc etc. Just take a look at Linkedin where a quick review of many a profile demonstrates no training or qualifications or experience.

    This is a problem for the other 'proper' patent firms in India, because I do not know who they are and I have no way of knowing, other than through recommendation, but then we have a catch-22 situation.

    The previous commentator also mentioned the problem of corruption in India and I have heard from other Indian attorneys of the attitude to confidentiality and protection of IP issues. This is concerning for many reasons, too numerous to mention here.

  4. When they say "Young IP Lawyer of the Year", well, what age are we talking about?

    If you're over 35 years old, then you're OLD NOT YOUNG.

    The award does not appear to recognise real young (aged between 25 to 35) IP lawyers in the profession.

  5. The Young Lawyer award is for those under the age of 35 ( A little birdie tells me the winner is only 34, even if he looks much older...

  6. "Where would we be if the world judged these people on their ability rather than the establishments their parents could afford to send them?"

    You've totally missed the point. It's like this: if a law firm partner had to choose between a CV from a fresh graduate who obtained a first class at Oxford and someone who obtained a lower second class at a second tier Indian university (not a leading one), I think it's fair to say that the former would be considered as having more ability. However, you will be surprised to know that many IP firms in Delhi would prefer the latter if his/her dad happened to occupy a senior government post or happened to be a client of the firm. This happens more in Delhi than Bombay. How do I know? I graduated from a top-ranked Indian law school and did my LLM from one of America's most prestigious law schools on a scholarship. I struggled to find a job in Delhi as my family is from Bombay and do not know many people in Delhi. However, in Bombay I received lucrative offers from top firms where I did not apply using my connections. I do not mind workng in Bombay but I was aiming to work in Delhi as I am more interested in litigation and all the interesting cases happen there. In Delhi, the firm I was aiming for gave me crap about there not being any vacancies but I later found out that that they hired 2 fresh graduates with very poor academic records and no LLM. I can assure you that many others will have similar stories about how rotten the system is in Delhi compared to Bombay.

  7. Anon at 6:29 - you slightly missed my point which was part tongue-in-cheek, but I do actually agree with you about the problems of such discrimination. The comparison you made just aroused my concern over the prevelant attitude that Oxbridge graduates should be considered a cut above the rest.

    Great universities, yes, but too much emphasis is placed by employers on the labels the graduates wear and not their abilities.

    The nepitisim/discrimination you have experienced (which is unacceptable) also occurs in the UK, but maybe in not such an extreme or obvious to identify manner.


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