Meet the Partner – Scott Bouvier

Scott Bouvier is a partner specialising in IP in the King & Wood Mallesons Sydney office. He has acted for some of the country’s most interesting clients – from the Sydney Opera House and Andrew Lloyd Webber to CSIRO and University of Sydney.

But who is he really, and what’s his story? We interviewed Scott to find out.

What attracted you to IP law?

I never planned to get into IP. I first started practicing in the early 1990s, which was when I joined Mallesons as a first year lawyer, and was working mostly in mergers and acquisitions. It was all very ‘Wall Street’ (in a good way!) back then.

Then, I rotated into the Mallesons IP group around the time of the early days of the dot com boom.

So I started to get more and more involved in new technology and, to my surprise, became very interested in it. Paradoxically, even though we’re often talking about intellectual property, the work we were doing and the results felt tangible to me; it really resonated. So the more I got involved, the more interested I became. And, you know it’s interesting, people are talking today about new technology and social media and the law keeping up–we were discussing exactly the same issues back then.

I found working in IP interesting, and it was creative. And the beauty of IP is that you can combine an interest in technology or the arts or science (or the environment) with a commercially focused endeavour – and I’m convinced myself that protecting these things commercially can also actually enhance the things you love.

Where has a career in IP taken you?

I’m originally from Queensland, but I came down to Sydney do a summer clerkship because I had heard that in Sydney they actually paid you! I had interviews with most of the leading firms, but Mallesons really outshone everybody because I met with three senior partners in my first interview – so that blew me away. I did college of law in Sydney and was an associate to Justice Lockhart in the Federal Court for a year, then started at Mallesons and ended up in the IP group.

After about 5 years I took some leave of absence and went to New York for a year. My wife was studying writing at City University of New York in Harlem and I worked with White & Case in mid town Manhattan. We lived in the West Village and I worked at White & Case by day and went to readings in the Village at nights. It was an amazing time…. I even met Saul Bellow.

Eventually, though, I came back to Mallesons in Sydney where I’ve been ever since. Over that time I’ve run many, many interesting IP cases including a matter that went all the way to the High Court (ie. the Barefoot Radler case). Unfortunately, after strong wins in the Federal Court, we lost! But still, it’s taken me a long way.

What does it take to be a good IP lawyer?

A good IP lawyer first of all needs to be a good lawyer. That is, one needs to be analytically skilled, to know the IP statutes (Copyright, Trade Mark and Patents Act) and also have an understanding of contract law, equity, the Courts, advertising, misleading and deceptive conduct. I think not being well rounded about those things can sometimes lead to a myopic lawyer. Lawyers have to remember that the IP is not your client. You need to have your client as your client and help them achieve what they want to achieve with their IP.

You have to, of course, be interested in the law – but you don’t work for the law, you work for people. The risk is to be so excited by IP law that you are a slave to it, and not sufficiently focussed on client need.

On your clients and beer?

I can now say, quite proudly, that I count as clients the Sydney Opera House (I trade marked the Sydney Opera House image and still act for them), the University of Sydney, CSIRO, Lion and Colgate. And, I’ve represented many of these clients for a long time. In fact, I’ve acted for Lion for almost twenty years!

And to be honest, I love that. I love the relationship I have with those clients. Like any other relationship, for it to work you’ve got to work on it, and there are always challenges. But I like the longevity and the depth of the relationships I’ve had with my clients and I am really interested in what they do. For example, I now know a LOT about beer – the technology, the marketing of beer, how to make beer more natural – because I’ve had to describe every aspect of beer in affidavits!

What is the future?

I think there are going to be lots of interesting things in the future, as there has been in the past, and I think agriculture R&D is going to be really important to our need for enhanced food production – you know, food is the oil of this century. We need to be much more efficient and be more creative about the way that we grow food, so we need to improve, we need to look after our environment better, so I am really interested in where agri-business is going.

The other element is that consumers have to be open to it, and need to be careful that concerns about genetically modified food aren’t blown out of proportion (within reason). In fact, I’m reading up at the moment on animal breeders’ rights and, in particularly, beef technology. We have an established body of law about plant breeding, but not so much on animals… Well, not yet, anyway. So I think the role of IP in feeding the world over the next century will be a big growth area.

And the other growth area, I hope, will be the role of IP and technology in renewable technology and carbon capture storage. I’m hoping it will be the next dot com boom area. These are the two big challenges for us over the next ten years – energy and food.

And what are you doing when you’re not working?

I love playing sport with my family. I love all sports, so whatever sport it is, I’m up for it. I have three boys – aged 5, 7 and 9 – so there’s a lot of rugby and cricket. I’m starting to coach them now too which is great fun. But my wife teaches them to play guitar and they’ve all taken to that as well. When we’re not playing sport, or the guitars, we go to the movies. We’re all big movie watchers. And, if there’s any time left, we try and get away to our farm in Oberon – and I try to get some rest. But, of course, with three boys, I never do.


Interviewed by Peter Carstairs