Publicly Traded International Patent Firm IPH Continue Growth through Acquisition

by Dennis Crouch

The publicly traded Australian company IPH Limited continues expanding its global intellectual property services empire. IPH’s latest acquisition is the Canadian IP firm Ridout & Maybee for $65 million Canadian dollars. This comes just 10 months after IPH purchased Canada’s largest IP firm, Smart & Biggar.

Ridout & Maybee will merge into Smart & Biggar, further consolidating IPH’s presence in Canada. IPH’s strategy is to dominate secondary IP markets like Canada, New Zealand, and Singapore. It already owns leading firms in Australia, including AJ Park, Griffith Hack, Pizzeys, and Spruson & Ferguson.

Ridout’s website indicates only that the firm is joining “fellow Canadian IP firm, Smart & Biggar” and does not indicate that the firm will be owned by the publicly traded firm IPH.

As I wrote last October, IPH’s model raises conflict of interest concerns. With control of over 1/3 of Australian patent filings, competitors may find their IP work handled by business partners. The growth also tests regulations restricting non-lawyer ownership of law firms.

The expansion of publicly traded international IP conglomerates like IPH makes one wonder if similar consolidation could come to the US. For now, the USPTO prohibits their model. But with IPH now owning top firms across the Pacific, Canada, and Australia, pressure on the USPTO’s stance may build over time. The IPH model promises global reach and resources while threatening attorney independence. The coming years will tell whether it represents the future of IP law.

19 thoughts on “Publicly Traded International Patent Firm IPH Continue Growth through Acquisition

  1. 4

    Private equity has largely taken over healthcare in the US. In fact, our leaders (at the state and federal level) have specifically forbidden physicians from owning or expanding physician owned hospitals. Once PE get their hooks into law it will be all over. Soon you will see legislation that forbids lawyers from owning law firms for the same silly reasons they forbid doctors from owning or expanding hospitals.

  2. 3

    This is somewhat off-topic, but the main topic of this post relates to a question that has long puzzled me. Here in the U.S., one can be admitted to practice before only the USPTO (a “patent agent”) or admitted to practice before both the USPTO and a state bar (a “patent attorney”). Just based on my own professional experience, it seems that patent attorneys substantially outnumber patent agents among the ranks of working patent professionals in the U.S. Obviously, patent agents are not a rare phenomenon, but there are more patent attorneys in actual practice than there are patent agents.

    By contrast, Europe—in practice—has a hard distinction between patent professionals and legal professionals. I have made no systematic survey, but just based on my own observation and experience, the incidence of patent professionals who are admitted to the bar of their own national or regional court system (e.g., England & Wales, Germany, Holland, etc.) is notably rare. I know only two individuals who are admitted to practice before both the EPO and the bar of England & Wales, whereas I know literally hundreds of U.S. patent professionals who are admitted to practice before both the USPTO and their particular state bar.

    Outside of the U.S. and Europe, I am little hazier on the particulars. I am not really clear how many of the (e.g.) Korean or Mexican associates of my acquaintance are admitted to the bars of their national courts. My hazy impression, however, is that the European model (few “patent attorneys”) of patent professional is more common than the U.S. model (mostly “patent attorneys”).

    Does anyone know why that is? Is there some structural feature of our legal system that encourages patent professionals to become members of their state bars, which does not exist in most other jurisdictions? Or am I just wrong in my general impressions (i.e., “patent agents” actually outnumber “patent attorneys” among patent professionals in the U.S., or “patent attorneys” also outnumber “patent agents” in most of the rest of the world)?

    1. 3.1

      That depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is (drawing to Greg’s continued 0bsess10n with OMB-TDS hidden signaling.

      It’s not like the current occupant of the office has any affinity for truth.


      1. 3.1.1

        anon said:

        >It’s not like the current occupant of the office has any affinity for truth.

        Have you been in a coma for the past almost-3-years?

        That guy lost the 2020 election, tried to steal it by fomenting an insurrection, and has now been charged with 91 criminal counts.

        Lock him up.

        But out of deference to his previous position, when he is in prison he should be allowed to have as much McDonalds and KFC as he wants,

        but no ketchup.


            What kind of deranged infant denies that the “previous occupant” was a giant fetid wad of human s c u m? I mean that much was well known even before the desperate fascist reality-deniers raised him up as their champion supporter of “fine N a z i s”.

            There’s no comparison whatsoever between Biden and Mango Mussolini … unless you are a s c u m b a g supporter of the latter.


              Check yourself – I did no such denying.

              I was merely pointing out that the current is a FAR more avid


              … also check out Greg’s hidden link on another thread (I’ve marked it with a puppeteer comment).

    2. 3.2

      It may be a question of scope of practice; that is, the scope of “patent law” practice as such is narrower in the US than it is elsewhere. Patent agents in the US are limited to the preparation and prosecution of patent applications, including offering opinions on the patentability of a client’s invention but not the inventions of another; i.e., effectively to the representation of inventors before the USPTO; but “patent agent” equivalents outside the US (e.g., Japanese benrishi, British Chartered Patent Attorneys – they now call themselves “patent attorneys” and not “patent agents”, European Patent Attorneys) all have greater scope of practice, including advising on infringement and invalidity, and some have the right to appear in courts on behalf of clients in patent matters, either directly as advocates or as assistants.

      1. 3.2.1

        It may be a question of scope of practice… Japanese benrishi, British Chartered Patent Attorneys… and… European Patent Attorneys… have greater scope of practice, including advising on infringement and invalidity, and some have the right to appear in courts on behalf of clients in patent matters…

        Interesting. I did not realize that the scope of practice was so different. That does make quite a cogent explanation as to why so few EP (and other ex-US) patent professionals feel motivated to seek admission to the bars of their local courts in the way that US patent professionals so often do.

    3. 3.3

      British Chartered Patent Attorneys typically have rights to conduct litigation and rights of audience in certain Courts in respect of defined (IP-related matters), and with relatively straightforward further qualifications, to conduct litigation and advocacy in higher Courts. That they do not often do so reflects the relatively high-stakes nature of UK patent litigation, where clients demand big-name litigation teams including one or more patent attorneys in a support role. European Patent Attorneys not only have rights of audience in certain actions before certain national courts throughout Europe, but can conduct Opposition and Opposition Appeal procedures at the EPO which are often of greater impact than national proceedings. Both advise on infringement and invalidity of patents, and the attorneys-at-law get involved only when we are contemplating going to Court, or when a license or transaction needs structuring. And a whole bunch of European Patent Attorneys are being signed up as we speak as advocates and litigators before Europe’s shiny new Unified Patent Court. The bars to entry into the patent profession are high, higher than for entry into a litigation practice in general law. Whether I speak a as a British or an European Patent Attorney, we as a profession have plenty of interesting and impactful contentious practice without ever needing to go near a general bar exam!

      1. 3.3.1

        I have been cognizant of the differences for quite awhile — which always ‘bemuses’ me when MaxDrei gets on his EPO Uber Alles shilling campaign.

  3. 2

    For now, the USPTO prohibits their model.

    Not just the USPTO. Most* of the various state bar associations also prohibit such a model. There are so many veto points that a firm would have to get past to achieve such an arrangement in the U.S. that it seems unlikely to happen any time in the foreseeable future.

    * I saw a stray mention on Google that Arizona permits it, but there were no details. Does anyone know if this is true?

  4. 1

    ” The IPH model promises global reach and resources…”

    Never understood how that’s supposed to be so or actually is plus for the client. In a company with thousands of employees, it’s not like some guy in singapore knows what the guy in the denver office is doing. Plenty of cheap online tools now exists for collaborative work. The only thing I see in these mergers is higher company overhead and more mouths to feed at the top of the pyramid.

    I’ve found much more value working with smaller firms.

    1. 1.1

      If I were to steel-man it, I’d guess:

      1) professional management. Let’s be honest, lawyers tend to be awful managers.

      2) a lower transaction cost method of utilizing lawyers in lower-cost countries. Perhaps lower risks wrt confidentiality/privilege, too.

      Side note: awhile back, the big law firms were all worried that the big accounting firms would start providing legal services (often as a loss-leader for higher value consulting services). Then Enron happened and people remembered why that was a bad idea.

      1. 1.1.1

        Just today, one of my legal update services had an article on the continuing push for legal services to be performed by non-attorneys (in select areas).

        Quite apparently, many have not drawn that lesson from Enron.

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