Sixty seconds with Dennis Lee – Partner and Head of IP
1. What would you describe as the key strengths of BDB Pitmans’ IP team?
We are a highly integrated team with decades of experience between us, but I think what sets us apart is that we look at every client issue through a commercial lens. In considering the aims of our clients we always zone in on the commercial objectives at hand. We enjoy very much the process of getting inside the skin of our clients. Just as a Na’vi Avatar is controlled by its human counterpart, a lawyer is guided by their client’s objectives – we represent them by embodying their interests, bringing to the table our legal skills and experience. Thankfully, none of this requires us to paint ourselves blue!
2. What is the most interesting IP case you’ve ever worked on?
I have been lucky enough to work on an array of interesting cases, but the Endurance expedition – an expedition to locate Sir Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship organised by our client, The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust – definitely stands out. We have been FMHT’s long-term trusted advisor for a number of years. Aside from the obvious reasons, the case was interesting because of how closely we had worked with the client in preparing for the expedition. Due to the way deals develop, in our line of work, you can sometimes end up with quite a different result from what the client started out towards; but in the case of the Endurance expedition, it was extremely satisfying to see everyone achieving a result which was better than they anticipated. Ultimately, it doesn’t hurt when you learn that a project that you were involved in is set to be turned in to a documentary by National Geographic either!
3. IP often involves creative and innovative concepts. What is the most creative strategy or solution you’ve come up with for a client?
Legal work requires a level head, not jumping to obvious conclusions however tempting it may be to do so. Making assumptions too soon can stop you from taking an approach that could ultimately pay off. For instance, some time ago we had a client wishing to file a trade mark for a name that had a passing resemblance to a registered mark owned by an international brand. However, we advised the client that the other company’s mark was in fact susceptible to being invalidated on the basis of its generic nature. Fortunately in that instance that client did have the requisite nerves to take on an international giant – a true David and Goliath case!
4. Outside of work, what do you do in your spare time?
Prior to training as a lawyer, I was training to be an interior designer – although these days I mainly take pleasure in rearranging my own furniture rather than anyone else’s! In addition to practicing my languages whenever I get a chance (I speak Mandarin, Cantonese and a little bit of Japanese and Korean) I am also a keen theatre-goer. At the moment, whatever spare time I have is spent trying to introduce an eight-year-old to the joys of Greek tragedy – wish me luck!