The Legal Elite: IP’s commercial focus

THE lawyers who dominated voting in the intellectual property category illustrate two very different aspects of this field of practice.

The top rated lawyer was Freehills partner Tony Joyner, who has a broad commercial law background and moved into the IP field just three years ago.

The runner-up was barrister Richard McCormack, who is an acknowledged specialist in IP litigation.

Mr Joyner said Perth companies traditionally viewed IP as primarily a litigation issue, for instance when there was a breach of copyright or a dispute over a trademark or registered trading name.

But increasingly he has observed companies taking a broader commercial view of IP.

This trend was driven in part by the emergence of publicly listed companies in areas such as the Internet, telecommunications, information technology and biotechnology.

However Mr Joyner emphasised that IP was much broader than dealing with technology and could even be developed outside a company’s main activity.

He cited to the example of a US power company that developed a patented billing system.

Such developments have potentially enormous value in a globalised world.

Mr Joyner characterised IP as revolving around the treatment of confidential information.

“Companies need to look at how they treat information that comes in, information that they create, and information that goes out,” he said.

“Who controls it and who can use it?”

Mr Joyner undertakes IP audits to help companies identify, protect and manage the commercial value of their intellectual property.

He also said that IP lawyers were not patent attorneys – the latter were a specialist category on their own and often were employed by IP lawyers.

The diversity of the IP field is reflected in Mr Joyner’s client base, which includes BankWest, ERG, Western Power, Water Corporation, Hartleys, Westralia Airports Corporation, QPSX and VRI Biomedical.

Mr Joyner is a senior member of Freehills’ national corporate and technology team, which deals in matters related to information technology, the Internet (including e-business), biotechnology and tele-communications.

He joined the firm in Perth 1986 and was made a partner in 1993.

The opportunity to focus on IP emerged when Mr Joyner returned to Perth after a two-year secondment to Freehills’ Melbourne office in 1999 and 2000.


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