South Africa

The election of President Cyril Ramaphosa is said to have put the implementation of the IP Policy of the Republic of South Africa, Phase 1 (IP Policy) on hold. If this is revived, it is hoped that it will lead to a more unified IP approach in the region in line with the South African Constitution, a greater focus on innovation and an economic boost driven by leveraging competitive and comparative advantages. The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission has taken steps to innovate and while its e-filing facility is effective, the transition from physical to electronic filing is causing significant delays. Despite considerable chatter about the introduction of the Madrid filing system, there is still no concrete timeline in place. Finally, in response to overwhelming reader feedback, this year’s WTR 1000 now includes a new transactions table in the South African rankings.

Firms

  • Adams & Adams 
  • Spoor & Fisher
  • Bouwers
  • ENSafrica
  • KISCH IP
  • Moore Attorneys
  • Von Seidels
  • Webber Wentzel

Adams & Adams 

A hub for Fortune 500 companies, the Adams & Adams team is “professional, dedicated and possess unrivalled knowledge and experience”. Staying ahead of the curve, the firm uses a range of innovative systems to optimise its prosecution and trademark management services and acts as a window to the rest of the continent through its associate offices. Chair of the outfit’s prosecution line-up Simon Brown is a go-to practitioner for portfolio management in Africa. Under Brown’s stewardship, the group’s constellation of prosecution stars include trademark recordals expert Lucy Signorelli and commercial IP leader Eugene Honey, as well as WTR 1000 debutants Megan Moerdijk and Nelia Hickman, who are names to remember for international filings. On the enforcement and litigation side of the practice, Steven Yeates, Gérard du Plessis, Dale Healy, Jenny Pienaar and Kelly Thompson are seasoned professionals and are joined by new entrants into this year’s guide Mariette du Plessis and Nolwazi Gcaba. Known for his handling of enforcement strategies throughout the African region, Yeates also plays a key role in copyright disputes; Gérard du Plessis is a leading light of the profession and is a sharp adviser in opposition and domain name matters; brand enforcement sage Healy recently showed his contentious prowess when he successfully represented an energy drinks provider in a trademark infringement and cancellation case; Pienaar is a first port of call for game-changing disputes and recently came to the defence of pharmaceutical giant Novartis in a trademark opposition case; Thompson is a “no-nonsense litigator who really knows her stuff” and a name to have on speed dial for multinationals. Mariette du Plessis is “respected industry-wide for her length of time in the industry and is without doubt one of the leading trademark professionals in the country”. Another of the ensemble’s leaders is Gcaba, who draws on her broad sector focus to provide unique insights for her clients. Head of Adams & Adams’s anti-counterfeiting practice Godfrey Budeli is a figurehead in his field and is heavily involved in the training and development of customs officials in the region. From prosecution to litigation to transactions, IP all-rounder Darren Olivier does it all and is “a highly thought of practitioner with an unrivalled commercial acumen”.

Bouwers

Delivering services in over 150 jurisdictions, Bouwers is a presence both at home and abroad. “Gold tier litigator” Deon Bouwer is the driving force behind the firm’s success. Highly sought out in South Africa, he is a well-versed practitioner who brings over 20 years’ experience to the table.

ENSafrica

With new people, new clients and new mandates, ENSafrica is taking the South African IP market by storm. The innovative troupe is “competent, efficient and capable with fair and transparent fees and very easy to work with. Exceptionally efficient in dealing with vast and geographically diverse portfolios; ENSafrica is a five-star firm”. In this light, the firm’s breadth of practice was highlighted in its work for Investec Bank, for whom a dream-team line-up of Gaelyn Scott, Ilse du Plessis and Waldo Steyn provided prosecution, enforcement and transactional IP services with distinction. Handling clients not at arm’s length, Scott combines an impressive technical knowledge of IP law with a practical approach that takes vital business considerations into account, resulting in top-quality and effective legal advice. There is no doubt that Scott is one of the best IP lawyers in the country. Alongside Scott, du Plessis is “a meticulous practitioner who is thorough, dependable and well-versed in the law of various African countries”. Heading up the group’s commercial IP team, Steyn is instrumental in lobbying for legislative change in the region while master tactician Rowan Forster is the first port of call for top-notch prosecution services; he is considered “a highly reliable and effective adviser”. Landmark signing André Maré is a doyen of the pharmaceutical space and is sure to take the outfit’s transactional offering to the next level.

KISCH IP

One of the old guard in South Africa, KISCH IP’s trademark line-up is as strong as it gets, with Nola Bond, Lisa McIlwaine-Hill, Andrew Papadopoulos and Vicky Stilwell all gaining plaudits. With over 25 years’ IP experience, Bond is an IP all-rounder and is a “point of contact not only for South African matters but is also a window into the Middle East”. McIlwaine-Hill and Papadopoulos are key practitioners. Head of the firm’s international trademark department, McIlwaine-Hill offers unique insights and strategy across Africa, while Papadopoulos is a senior statesperson who is recognised for his ability to seamlessly traverse the contentious/non-contentious divide. With a vast sector knowledge, Stilwell comes at cases from all angles, exploring every possible avenue. New addition into the guide this year, transactions whizz Derek Momberg knows how to get the best value out of his clients’ IP rights.

Moore Attorneys

“The team at Moore Attorneys is young, nimble and do things differently to some of the larger established firms – providing a client-driven and cost-effective service to domestic and international clients; it is rightly recognised as one of the leading IP law firms in Africa.” Continuing to attract key talent, this slick outfit has expanded its prosecution and litigation practices with a series of top hires. Overseeing things at the top, Shane Moore “understands the law as well as the intricacies of the brands that he works with. At the intersection of law and marketing, Moore is relied on to find the best solutions, which is done consistently with aplomb”. Alongside him, heading up the litigation and brand enforcement team, Tyrone Walker is a feared litigator who “provides clear, helpful and precise communication and is always available”. Prosecution sage David Legge also leads the fight against counterfeiters and is a rising star in the group’s ranks.

Spoor & Fisher

Front and centre of driving forward legislative change in South Africa and the wider continent, Spoor & Fisher is an innovative leader, which “provides tailored advice and always gets the job done. With cost-effective solutions, this group consists of experts in their field who are responsive, dedicated and commercially oriented.” On the prosecution front, Louise Myburgh “has a strong academic knowledge and finds practical solutions  – a practitioner at the top of her game.” Equally strong Eben van Wyk “takes the time to understand his clients’ businesses and pre-empts and identifies any potential strategic gaps. Offering concise and direct advice, Van Wyk leaves no stone unturned.” Stephen Goldberg provides experienced leadership, as well as “timely and detailed responses”, ll of which have garnered him an excellent reputation in the industry. With decades of experience both in the United States and South Africa, Kay Rickelman is another seasoned practitioner who is a go-to for international portfolio management. New entry to the guide this year is Marco Van Der Merwe, who is a name to remember for computer-related matters. Completing the firm’s prosecution line-up is Jean McIvor, who forms a formidable partnership with sharpshooting litigator Charles Webster; “a great combination, McIvor has a wide breadth of experience in clearances, searches and prosecution whilst Webster offers broad experience in conflicts”. “Webster is a very well recognised practitioner who is easy to deal with and really knows his stuff. He is a real game changer and is head and shoulders above the rest.” The contentious quartet of John Foster, Carl van Rooyen¸ Mohamed Khader and Megan Reimers are a force to be reckoned with. Foster “provides rounded advice and sound judgment to a consistently high standard”; Van Rooyen brings three decades’ experience to the table and masterfully handles trademark infringement and opposition work; and Reimers is called upon when the chips are down and is widely sought out by industry giants for her quick thinking and in-depth knowledge. Battling against counterfeiters is where you will find Khader and Charl Potgieter. Heading up the anti-counterfeiting team, Khader is a leading light in the profession and is often sought out by authorities for assistance. The acquisition of marquee signing Potgieter was a particular coup for the firm; Potgieter is a sharp strategist with vast experience advising market leaders and rightly comes into the guide this year.

Von Seidels

“The new kids on the block, Von Seidels are extremely responsive, practical in its advice and very easy to work with. I trust them with anything that I send to South Africa,”, enthuses one satisfied patron. “One of few firms really forging its way forward and improving, Von Seidels are in a healthy groove and its filing stats are coming along nicely.” Wearing the captain’s armband, Christine Strutt is “a vibrant go-getter whose advice is very pragmatic, commercially minded and always answers her clients’ needs. She is one of the most complete, reliable and friendly trademark attorneys around with unrivalled breadth and depth of IP knowledge”. Alongside her, enforcement and prosecution pro Simonne Moodie “is fantastic – a brilliant specialist in South African trademark law and the wider African region”. Heading up the Africa prosecution practice, Claire Brown is another leader in the group’s ranks who is a proactive thinker and understands her clients’ overarching aims and objectives throughout Africa. Contentious sage Hugo Prinsloo always makes himself available, works in a timely and conscientious manner and has the dexterity to use a range of different strategies to meet his clients’ needs.

Webber Wentzel

Webber Wentzel has astutely positioned itself at the junction of technology and law . Being the first in the region to launch a legal incubation programme (Webber Wentzel Ignite), the firm is at the forefront of the start-up scene, while its alliance with global powerhouse Linklaters adds a unique cross-border dimension to its IP offering. The dynamic duo of Leanne Mostert and Bernadette Versfeld offer a cradle-to-grave IP service, possessing the dexterity to advise a who’s who of clients ranging from start-ups to multinationals. Mostert knows how to get the best value out of her clients’ IP rights; “from a commercial IP perspective, she is one of the best around”. Alongside her, clients are often impressed by Versfeld’s “ability to dissect legal issues with unerring precision and accuracy and soundly advising internationals with unique local insights”.

Other recommended experts

Managing partner of de Chalains and IP all-rounder David Bernstein “is a rare find who provides solid, efficient advice for all African countries”. Plying her trade at Hahn & Hahn, Vanessa Lawrance is a contentious maestro who works closely with clients to provide bespoke advice, meeting their individual needs and objectives. Heading up the practice at Eversheds Sutherland, Sara-Jane Pluke is the driving force behind the firm’s growth in South Africa and is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Individuals: anti-counterfeiting

  • Godfrey Budeli - Adams & Adams
  • Mohamed Khader - Spoor & Fisher
  • David Legge - Moore Attorneys
  • Charl Potgieter - Spoor & Fisher

Individuals: enforcement and litigation

  • Deon Bouwer - Bouwers
  • Darren T Olivier - Adams & Adams
  • Charles Webster - Spoor & Fisher
  • Gérard du Plessis - Adams & Adams
  • Mohamed Khader - Spoor & Fisher
  • Louise Myburgh - Spoor & Fisher
  • Jenny Pienaar - Adams & Adams
  • Gaelyn Scott - ENSafrica
  • Kelly Thompson - Adams & Adams
  • Carl van Rooyen - Spoor & Fisher
  • Eben van Wyk - Spoor & Fisher
  • Mariette Du Plessis - Adams & Adams
  • John Foster - Spoor & Fisher
  • Nolwazi Gcaba - Adams & Adams
  • Dale Healy - Adams & Adams
  • Vanessa Lawrance - Hahn & Hahn Inc
  • Sara-Jane Pluke - Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP
  • Hugo Prinsloo - Von Seidels
  • Megan Reimers - Spoor & Fisher
  • Lucy Signorelli - Adams & Adams
  • Waldo Steyn - ENSafrica
  • Bernadette Versfeld - Webber Wentzel
  • Tyrone Walker - Moore Attorneys
  • Steven Yeates - Adams & Adams

Individuals: prosecution and strategy

  • David Bernstein - de Chalains Trade Mark and Patents Attorneys
  • Nola Bond - KISCH IP
  • Claire Brown - Von Seidels
  • Simon Brown - Adams & Adams
  • Ilse du Plessis - ENSafrica
  • Rowan Forster - ENSafrica
  • Stephen Goldberg - Spoor & Fisher
  • Nelia Hickman - Adams & Adams
  • Eugene Honey - Adams & Adams
  • Lisa McIlwaine-Hill - KISCH IP
  • Jean McIvor - Spoor & Fisher
  • Megan Moerdijk - Adams & Adams
  • Simonne Moodie - Von Seidels
  • Shane Moore - Moore Attorneys
  • Leanne Mostert - Webber Wentzel
  • Louise Myburgh - Spoor & Fisher
  • Darren T Olivier - Adams & Adams
  • Andrew Papadopoulos - KISCH IP
  • Kay Rickelman - Spoor & Fisher
  • Lucy Signorelli - Adams & Adams
  • Waldo Steyn - ENSafrica
  • Vicky Stilwell - KISCH IP
  • Christine Strutt - Von Seidels
  • Marco Van Der Merwe - Spoor & Fisher
  • Eben van Wyk - Spoor & Fisher
  • Bernadette Versfeld - Webber Wentzel

Individuals: transactions

  • André Maré - ENSafrica
  • Derek Momberg - KISCH IP
  • Leanne Mostert - Webber Wentzel
  • Darren T Olivier - Adams & Adams
  • Waldo Steyn - ENSafrica
  • Eben van Wyk - Spoor & Fisher
  • Bernadette Versfeld - Webber Wentzel