PROFILE: WLG STRAP
A NEW APPROACH
WIPR met the co-heads of IP at Gowling WLG providing
the right advice, at the right time, in the right places.
As the rules of the game change, so
must the strategy. Intellectual property
(IP) infringers have gone global, running
complex supply chains, sophisticated
online operations that leverage surprising
levels of IP knowhow.
For rights owners, this is either already a
problem they are aware of and tackling, or
a problem that has not yet appeared.
Either way, they need help to prevent
and tackle any impact on their business
or suffer the consequences, which may
be in the form of counterfeits, lost market
share, or tarnished trademarks.
“Infringers and counterfeiters are taking
advantage of global interconnectivity
and, in order to beat them, small- to
medium-enterprises (SMEs) and large
multinationals must take an international
approach as well,” explains Gordon
Harris, co-head of IP at Gowling WLG.
Harris and his fellow co-head, Robert
MacDonald, preside over an IP practice
built to match the tests posed by
international infringers. The firm’s 105
IP partners, supported by 125 other IP
professionals, operate top-tier IP services in
multiple regions for multinational clients.
The firm’s strategic IP footprint has been
carefully cultivated over the past 20 years.
This includes IP practices across Canada,
and in Birmingham and London in the
UK, Munich, Paris, Dubai, Singapore
(under an exclusive association with
JurisAsia), Beijing and Guangzhou in
China, and Moscow—places where the
firm can provide the “maximum strategic
advantage” to clients, says Harris.
To understand why this international
approach is important one needs to
understand how clients’ priorities and
technology have changed.
Connectivity, the same technology
that has allowed infringers to operate
worldwide, also allows a law firm like
Gowling WLG to manage a network of
offices—all while maintaining quality.
Twenty years ago, clients generally
accepted that they had to deal with
multiple legal service providers in
“That has changed,” MacDonald says.
“Due to pressures on their businesses
and budgets, clients now want a
handful of trusted advisors.
“Our clients are able to start a
relationship with Gowling WLG at one
point and then, as they grow, we can
then take care of them in jurisdictions
that are of particular concern,” he says.
Harris adds: “We have top-tier experts
at all points around the world and
consequently the sun doesn’t set on
Gowling WLG’s IP practice.”
Advice that matches
Harris and MacDonald believe their
role is to look beyond traditional,
piecemeal legal advice.
“As one of the leading patent firms in
the world, we can talk to you about
what you need to do to ensure your
patents are protected in the key
economies,” MacDonald says.
This advice changes depending on the
size of the business, he says. An SME
with the “next greatest product” will no
doubt be dependent upon technology. As
such, its advantage in the marketplace
will be “quite frankly, very short”.
“You have first-mover advantage but
everybody will catch up with you
quickly,” MacDonald warns.
“Before you move out into the world
you need to make sure you have a
strategy that takes into account more
than just domestic issues—you need an
international element, too.”
Harris agrees, adding that, due to
budget constraints, SMEs have to
choose carefully where to file.
“We can advise them about where the
trouble spots are and where, if they do
file, we can make a success of enforcing
in a way that protects them against
wider infringement,” Harris says.
Large multinationals, by contrast, know
the value of their IP. “What they want
from Gowling WLG is help to deal with
the challenges in China, Russia, ASEAN
and the Middle East,” Harris explains.
MacDonald describes Gowling WLG as
an “international firm with a strategic
footprint”. The firm views its IP practice
as one team—an important cultural
attitude that allows for a seamless, single
“conversation” with the client, no matter
where in the world the advice is needed.
“You have to educate us just once, and
we will take care of everything in the
jurisdictions where you need us,” he says.
MacDonald concludes: “This enables
the type of efficient and effective global
approach to protecting and enforcing IP
that is essential in today’s world.” n
Gordon Harris can be contacted at:
Robert MacDonald can be contacted
www.worldipreview.com/leaders WIPR Leaders Leaders 2020 2020 7