News Zone

Making trade mark law accessible and affordable to everyone 01 Dec 2015

Just over seven years ago Zone Law founder, Theodore Doucas – recognising that high legal costs and a time consuming trademark application process were stifling the growth of New Zealand companies – set out to make access to trade mark law easier, faster and cheaper using all the smarts the digital age could offer.

Today the Zone Group of companies files more trademark applications for more New Zealand companies and New Zealanders than any other firm in New Zealand, and has a presence in Wellington, Auckland and Sydney.

A lawyer, a former Assistant Commissioner of Patents, Trademarks and Designs and a business owner himself, Theodore says he wanted to make it easier for New Zealand companies and start-ups to get momentum on the world stage, and to recognise the value of trade marking their intellectual property, without the unnecessary closed shop mystique, high costs and arduous processes that characterised trade mark law back then.

“Small New Zealand companies and start-ups weren’t being catered for by the big law firms, and that was bad for New Zealand because companies weren’t carrying out best practise when it came to protecting their intellectual property,” says Theodore.

He decided on three strategies to help him level the playing field:

1.The Internet

2.Education

3.Applying business solutions to perceived ‘legal issues’

“Protecting client trade marks is not just about the law, it’s about working with people – emotions, egos and all that involves – and we often find that it’s not the biggest bullets, but the best strategies that win. 

“We punch above our weight because we look for novel and new solutions – we are a law firm born in the Internet age, so we use the Internet and other electronic tools to achieve results.” 

As a result, the firm sister company is the owner of both an online trade mark assistance service and an online trade mark renewal service, both a New Zealand first – and the firm has actively carried out a trade mark education programme using media and social media over the past seven years.

Even big companies have responded to Zone Law’s unique approach to resolving trademark disputes and in 2013 the firm was awarded the ‘Great Creative Strategies’ award for delivering best strategy by one of its corporate American clients.

In addition to numbering a large count of local companies and corporations among it’s clients, the firm act’s for other like-minded ‘new thinking digital companies, offering trademark opinions, fillings, negotiation and litigation advice.

“Anybody can read the law; it’s how you strategise using the law to get the best commercial outcome for your client that counts. Even large corporations appreciate our open policy and commercial perspective. We were pleasantly surprised to see how quickly both SMEs and corporations embraced the concept. They could see the benefit of what we were doing, and they continue to see the benefit,” says Theodore.

He admits that changing the way the industry works wasn’t a popular position within the legal sector to begin with, particularly considering how reluctant law firms have been to enter the digital age. 

“We have actively carried out a content marketing programme since inception, to demystify trade mark law and educate our client’s and the broader business community about thinking outside the square when it comes to resolving legal disputes. We give talks, we make ourselves approachable and we write articles on the subject.

“We’ve taken IP in a new direction by changing the way people deal with trade marks. Our philosophy is to take a business approach first and foremost. Coming from a mainstream business background ourselves, we take into account commercial considerations like reputation, cost and business objectives, to name just a few, as leverage for achieving client goals,” says Theodore.