Australian IP Group to Acquire Canadian Patent and Trademark Agency Smart & Biggar
Canadian intellectual property firm Smart & Biggar, Canada’s largest intellectual property firm, is merging with Asia-Pacific patent and trademark group IPH Ltd., a network of intellectual property firms based in the Asia-Pacific countries.
This move is a first for a Canadian company and also IPH’s first foray beyond the Asia-Pacific region.
Based in Sydney, Australia, IPH, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), is a leading patent services firm in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. It also has offices in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Hong Kong.
Under the deal, IPH will acquire Smart & Biggar’s intellectual property agency practice, which accounts for approximately 70% of the Canadian company’s revenue, for C$348 million. She will also own a stake in the law firm Smart & Biggar, which handles patent litigation, although this stake will be held by the agency firm, as Canadian laws limit the ownership of law firms to lawyers. In addition, a representative from Smart & Biggar will join the IPH Group management team.
The merger is expected to be finalized in September 2022.
Smart & Biggar managing partner Matthew Zischka told Law.com International that the deal will benefit the firm in multiple ways. Being part of IPH, he said, will give the company access to capital to invest in people and technology. Customers will also benefit, he added, as they will have a single point of access to multiple businesses.
And he stressed that the firm is “delighted” to join IPH.
“It will give us strength, perspective, [and] an opportunity to work with colleagues outside of Canada,” Zischka told Law.com International. “I think it will be transformative in the Canadian market. »
Smart & Biggar, which was established in 1890 (formerly known as Fetherstonhaugh & Co.) will continue to focus on litigation and provide legal advice, which traditionally accounts for about 30% of its practice, Zischka said.
Smart & Biggar is Canada’s leading IP company by filings, with more than 6,200 patents and 1,800 trademarks registered in 2021, according to the Australian Securities Exchange. The firm has more than 300 employees, including more than 100 patent agents, trademark agents and lawyers in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.
Zischka said the new arrangement and structure makes Smart & Biggar “a forerunner” in Canada, and he predicts there will be more acquisitions of firms like theirs by companies beyond Canada’s borders. .
IPH approached the Canadian firm before COVID, Zischka said, and seeing the trend of internationalization in the legal and agency services market, the firm was open to the idea of being part of a larger organization.
“In many ways it was the best of both worlds in the sense that we were able to retain the brand and at the same time be part of a larger corporate group,” Zischka said.
IPH CEO Andrew Blattman said the group was attracted to Smart & Biggar because of its “outstanding international reputation” and also because it is very similar to other companies in its international network.
“The Australian and Canadian intellectual property markets are very similar and together the combined group will be well placed to provide our customers with a comprehensive IP service offering with international reach in key secondary markets,” he said. said in a statement.
Blattman said the IPH plans to continue to expand internationally but will be careful not to compete with companies that assign work to its members. It will instead focus on secondary markets, he said, adding that he is looking at South America, particularly Brazil, potentially Africa at some point in the future, and perhaps expansion. extra in Canada.
A primary market is the jurisdiction in which a patent application is first filed, primarily in countries considered leaders in innovation, such as the United States, Western Europe, South Korea and , more recently, China.
IPH works directly with large pharmaceutical companies as well as technology companies with in-house patent departments. said Blattman. But it also gets a significant amount of referral work from patent companies in Europe, the US, and Asia, which is why it stays out of the primary market.
“If we were competing in their space, they wouldn’t refer us to work because we became a competitor,” said Blattman, who holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology.
IPH also sees potential growth in patent renewals and in the management of intellectual property data.
Shares of IPH have nearly doubled since its IPO in 2014. The company now has a market capitalization of A$2.1 billion (US$1.45 billion).
In results released last week, IPH reported underlying revenue of A$385.1 million ($266 million) and net profit of A$52.6 million ($36.4 million). . About three-quarters of its revenue came from Australia and New Zealand, but Asian offices were responsible for most of the growth, with revenue up 10%.
“We’ve had good growth in Asia for 20 years,” Blattman said. “Where we’ve had a customer relationship in Australia, we’ve been able to expand that into a new jurisdiction, whether it’s Singapore or Malaysia, or Thailand or Indonesia because in this game it’s a lot easier to bring an existing customer into a new market than it often is to win a new customer.