Celebrating 120 years

Wednesday 31st August 2016

Baldwins, one of New Zealand’s oldest and largest intellectual property firms, celebrated its 120 year anniversary in August, by bringing all our staff from across New Zealand together for a memorable event in Auckland. Reaching the age of 120 years is something few businesses attain and wider awareness of this milestone has led people to express renewed interest in our history.


Baldwins begins

Founded in 1896, the story of Baldwins begins with Henry Hughes, an English engineer, who immigrated to New Zealand in the 1870s with his wife and 12 children. After unsuccessfully trying to establish himself as a locomotive engineer, he moved to Wellington to start as a patent agent in 1882.

Hughes’ business flourished and he recruited a young draughtsman, Ernest Smith Baldwin, from his old firm in Loughborough, England to join him in New Zealand. Baldwin arrived in March 1891 and was placed on the patent attorney register on 21 June of the same year.

“Kiwi ingenuity has been leading the way for a long time. It continues to be the life blood of firms like Baldwins. Without realising it, previous generations of tinkerers gave a lot of their intellectual property away. Today people are much more aware of its value through entrepreneurial programmes in universities, many of which we are pleased to support,” says Baldwins partner Sue Ironside.

On the death of Hughes, Ernest Baldwin decided to set up a new firm and established a partnership with two colleagues, Henry Hughes’ son William and Henrie Rayward. The firm has chosen this date, 1896, for its formal beginning.

Baldwin Son and Carey, 1927

Ernest Carey joined Baldwin’s Auckland office in 1919, and in 1924 they were joined by Ernest Baldwin’s son Jasper. The same year, the firm took the name Baldwin Son and Carey and practised successfully throughout the depression and the Second World War and, following the death of Ernest Baldwin in 1941, began to expand and prosper in the post-war boom years.

“Jasper Baldwin regarded the firm as his family. There was a strong emotional connection between people, as well as the professional connection. This continues today in our relationships with employees and clients. We work alongside people, looking at things from their point of view, rather than advising from on high,” says Baldwins consultant Philip Thoreau.

Baldwins has always had an important role in fostering innovation in New Zealand and shaping the country’s intellectual property landscape. In the 1980's, partner Dennis Tuffery was the lead in the landmark pharmaceutical case for an extension of patent term for the drug Voltaren. In 2002, Baldwins partner Tim Jackson appeared as counsel in the last New Zealand patent case before the Privy Council and then, in 2006, appeared as counsel in the first patent case before the New Zealand Supreme Court. In another significant achievement, in 2005 the firm successfully registered one of the first phonetic or sound trade marks in New Zealand for Fletcher Building. The trade mark was for the sound of the spoken word FORMICA.

Over the years the partners have also strived to maintain a degree of lightheartedness within the firm. They see the balance between working hard and having fun as a valuable part of a culture that has helped to differentiate the firm from its main competitors. Quite a number of out-going and relatively young professionals joined the firm during the 90s. There were frequent social events, including gatherings with attorneys from other firms, patent office personnel and of course with clients. Lunchtime and evening sports teams were also well supported.

“Diversity seems to have been actively encouraged from the firm’s earliest days. Ernest Baldwin chose someone with a very different personality as a business partner, Henrie Rayward, a more outgoing firebrand who travelled the land to find new clients. That openness to diversity is still part of the firm’s culture. It’s fostered by being a bit more light-hearted about some things, allowing people to show their idiosyncrasies if they want to and not judging them for it,” says Baldwins chairman Wes Jones.

Stepping out to connect with clients

In recent years, face-to-face marketing initiatives have increased client contacts and ensured the firm remains heavily promoted. These programmes include stands at events such as Mystery Creek, lecturing law and science programmes at New Zealand’s top ranking universities, sponsoring organisations such as World of WearableArt, KiwiNet, The American Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand and ExportNZ, as well as attending conferences in New Zealand and overseas.

“Connecting with clients and potential employees in their world is an important part of the way we operate. Our involvement in education, as well as community and business events, is quite extensive. It ensures we are well-connected and informed, while also giving back where we can,” says Baldwins partner Sue Ironside.

Without clients there is no business

Respect for our clients and a determination to do the right thing for them has been at the core of the firm since Ernest Baldwin established the first partnership in 1896. Without our clients’ courage, creativity and astounding innovations, we would have no reason to do what we enjoy doing every day. Over recent decades we have had the pleasure of working for innovative New Zealanders as well as internationally recognised brands, such as Lacoste, Comvita, Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, Rocket Lab, Auckland UniServices, Pacific Edge, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and The World of WearableArt, to name a few.

A close eye on the future

The world of intellectual property is always changing. It’s a world we completely immerse ourselves in to ensure we can help our clients protect, develop, commercialise and enforce their intellectual property assets in the best possible way. For more than 120 years we have demonstrated leadership, creativity, strength and resilience in our field. The future of Baldwins is strong as we draw on our past and continue to make the most of emerging opportunities and trends in our field.

“I’m very optimistic about the future of intellectual property in general because as economies develop they tend to do a lot more research and development, as well as innovative and creative work, and they want to protect that work to gain economic advantage. Traditional importers of technology, such as China, are already creating and exporting their own highly innovative products and services,” says Baldwins chairman Wes Jones.

"What the partnership team is probably most excited about is the talent of the young people we have coming up through the firm. Their technical expertise in their fields is astounding, but they’re also very real people who work alongside our clients with ease. As technology and artificial intelligence take over more of the firm’s processing work, it is the creative forward thinking of talented intellectual property specialists that will add the most value for our clients in the future.”

- Wes Jones, Chairman

A complete account of significant events and the people involved in Baldwins' history would fill a book. Here we have simply tried to capture a high-level summary, based on a manuscript written by Grant Crowley. By definition this summary cannot do justice to the dedicated efforts of all those who have contributed to our story.

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  • Wes Jones
    Partner, Auckland

  • phone+64 9 359 7747
  • phonelink_ring+64 21 666 703
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