Webber Wentzel senior associate Aalia Manie, with awards judge Gary Berndt, Barloworld

Finalists: Bowmans; ENSafrica; Kisch IP (Highly Commended); Spoor & Fisher.

Webber Wentzel was declared IP Team of the Year for its pro bono lobbying efforts to change South Africa’s restrictive intellectual property laws. The firm is seeking to instigate amendments to IP exchange control regulations, which prevent South African residents from selling, assigning or licensing intellectual property and paying royalties to foreign residents without approval from the central bank – a policy that impairs South African businesses from readily accessing global markets and attracting foreign investment.

Led by senior associate Aalia Manie, the advocacy project involves extensive research on the economic impact to South African businesses and engaging stakeholders who have previously lobbied for change, with the intention to help regulators better understand the impacts and unintended consequences of current laws. That has already led to a relaxation in the rules, with the National Treasury earlier this year proposing that standard IP transactions no longer need central bank approval – an emphatic endorsement of Webber Wentzel’s influence in this area, given that prior lobbying efforts had failed to yield any changes. The firm continues to advocate for wider reforms to the country’s IP laws.

“An excellent strategy to allow businesses to exploit their own IP and generate new opportunities for South African business,” a judge noted.

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