Who’s who in the zoo – how independent is your Australian IP attorney (part 2)

Concerns in Australia and New Zealand around conflicts arising from the new business model of publicly listed companies acquiring multiple Australian and New Zealand IP firms have continued to increase over the past 12 months.

As you may recall, these concerns are centered on the independence of these firms, conflict issues and disclosure to clients of the ownership and group structures of many firms who historically have been seen as independent.

For example, the current concerns centre on the publicly listed firms now engaging in takeover activity.  The three main listed IP corporates are:

  • IPH Limited which owns
    • Spruson & Ferguson
    • Fisher Adams Kelly
    • Pizzeys
    • Callinans
    • Cullens, and
    • AJ Park.
  • Xenith IP which owns
    • Shelston IP
    • Watermark
    • Griffith Hack, and
    • Glasshouse Advisory.
  • QANTM IP owns
    • Davies Collison Cave, and
    • FPA Patent Attorneys (formerly, Freehills Patent Attorneys).

These three ASX listed corporations employ roughly 65% of the profession.  In November 2018, Xenith and QANTM were considering a merger but then IPH made several takeover offers to QANTM which were rejected.

Then in February 2019, IPH acquired 19.9% share in Xenith making it Xenith’s largest shareholder.

Just this week, IPH has announced that it has submitted a takeover offer to acquire Xenith in its entirety.  Xenith has acknowledged receipt of the proposal and noted the proposed merger with QANTM remains on foot.

It will be interesting to continue to watch this space to see how the inevitable fall out will occur.  The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is reviewing this arrangement and has called for submissions.

Our independence

Vardon Legal is an independent top-tier boutique firm and can assist with your IP needs in Australia and New Zealand.  We are not owned by a listed company and do not operate in a group with other firms.