Shenzhen stock market building and bull sculpture in Shenzhen, China. Photo: zhu difeng/

Fish & Richardson will become the second international law firm to have a presence in Shenzhen—the city known as China’s Silicon Valley—now that Chinese regulators have signed off on its application to open an office there.

With approval from the Chinese Ministry of Justice, the venerable intellectual property boutique expects to have its office up and running in January. It will join Chicago-based IP specialists Brinks Gilson Lione, who became the first foreign law firm to open doors in Shenzhen, after announcing plans to land in the city in May 2016 and seeing its application approved in August 2017.

Fish & Richardson president Peter Devlin said that his firm reached out to Brinks Gilson, who filled them in with information about the application process.

We were fortunate in that there’s at least one firm that already there,” he said, noting there were no surprises in the application process.

Fish filed its application earlier this year, with the expectation that it would take nine to 10 months. The firm is now looking for space in the city, whose population is estimated at over 12 million. 

Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong to the south, boasts the highest number of Patent Cooperation Treaty applications of any city in China. It is home to some of the world’s largest electronics manufacturers and technology companies, including Fish client Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. The firm’s other key China clients include Ant Financial and Hisense Electric Co. Ltd.

“We’ve been traveling to China to visit with our clients for quite some time, and now we’ll have a platform from which to operate there,” Devin said. 

Fish will move principal Ryan McCarthy from its Austin, Texas office to serve as its chief representative in residence. He will be joined by Houston associate Yong (Eric) Peng, an electrical engineering Ph.D. who is fluent in Mandarin.

There are no plans to expand the office beyond those two, Devin said, pointing to the focus on inbound work.

“We’re not going to be practicing local law,” he said. “We don’t need a large staff.”

Shenzhen will be the firm’s second international office, following Munich. It currently has 400 attorneys and technology specialists across a total of 12 offices.

Meanwhile, Clyde & Co just announced the expansion of its own IP practice in China with the hire of Beijing-based local partner Yan Gong to head the trademark practice in the firm’s Chinese joint venture Clyde & Co Westlink. Gong is joining from Beijing-based IP specialist firm China PAT Intellectual Property Office, where she was a partner. She brings with her a team of five fee-earners, three of whom will join next month.

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