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.