Opening ceremony of Brinks Gilson & Lione’s office at SCC Center in Shenzhen on Dec. 1, 2017.

Chicago-based intellectual property specialist firm Brinks Gilson & Lione has opened its first office outside the United States in the Chinese technology hub city of Shenzhen.

Shareholder Harold Johnson has relocated from Chicago to be the firm’s chief representative there and manage the office. Johnson, a litigator, is joined by associate Fei Hu, a China native who joined the firm in 2016.

Hu joined the firm from British semiconductor manufacturer Arm Holdings, where he was senior in-house counsel. Before that, he served as an in-house lawyer at Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Tencent Technology (Shenzhen) Co. Ltd., both of which have been Brinks Gilson’s clients.

Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong to the south, is home to some of the world’s largest electronics manufacturers and technology companies, and many of them have been Brinks Gilson’s clients in the U.S. In addition to Huawei and Tencent, smartphone maker ZTE Corp. has also been a longtime client of Brinks Gilson.

Brinks Gilson has handled many patent litigation cases for Chinese companies before U.S. courts or the U.S. International Trade Commission. In 2013, the firm successfully defended ZTE before the ITC on patent infringement challenges brought up by InterDigital Inc.

Although a technology hub and home to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, one of China’s two main securities exchanges, Shenzhen had no foreign law firm presence until the Brinks Gilson opening. The city’s immediate proximity to Hong Kong and lower-than-average fee rates have kept firms away.

In addition to Johnson and Hu, Brinks Gilson president Gustavo Siller, shareholder Yuezhong Feng and Washington, D.C.-based shareholder Lyle Vander Schaaf will also spend time in Shenzhen. They all have worked on Chinese clients’ matters.

Brinks Gilson announced in May 2016 that it would seek a license to open in Shenzhen. Then-president James Sobieraj said the purpose of the office was to be closer to the firm’s Chinese clients and help those that export to the U.S. take full advantage of U.S. IP laws. Brinks Gilson’s license was approved in August 2017.

Brinks Gilson reported 132 lawyers firmwide in 2016, according to the most recent NLJ 500 survey. Globally, it has eight offices; all but one are located in the U.S.