On 14 December 2020, Pizzeys Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys – a firm in the stable owned by listed company IPH Limited (ASX:IPH) – filed suit in the Federal Court of Australia against former Pizzeys principals William Bennett and Martin Richardson, along with the new firm they have established, RnB IP (collectively ‘RnB’). The lawsuit alleges that Bennett and Richardson lured lucrative US law firm clients away from Pizzeys, in breach of non-compete, non-dealing, and/or non-solicitation restraints that were included in their employment contracts subsequent to the acquisition of Pizzeys by IPH.
This lawsuit has been a long time coming, after Pizzeys was awarded preliminary discovery back in December 2019. The documents required to be produced by William Bennett following that decision included communications with Martin Richardson, marketing plans, and communications with prospective clients, relating to the establishment of RnB IP. I believe that discovery was provided early in 2020, and it is unclear why it has taken Pizzeys so long to decide to commence proceedings against RnB. Perhaps they would blame the pandemic?
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the IPH group, there appears to have been a recent exodus of patent attorneys from Griffith Hack. In December 2020, there were 48 patent attorneys recorded on the Register maintained by the Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Board (TTIPAB) as being employed by Griffith Hack, but only 37 of these were still listed on the firm’s web site. I am aware that at least one of these was a departure earlier in 2020, but my understanding is that most are recent resignations where staff are currently on ‘gardening leave’, or otherwise temporarily restrained from commencing new employment (and thus updating their registration details).
These numbers represent a loss of about 20% of registered patent attorneys from Griffith Hack over a short period of time, suggesting a significant level of dissatisfaction among the firm’s professional staff. Whether this dates back to life under the ownership of Xenith IP (which acquired Griffith Hack in 2017), or is a consequence of the more recent management of IPH (which acquired Xenith in 2019) is unclear.