Thought leadership from our experts

Q&A with Hugo Prinsloo

What type of work is keeping you busy at the moment?

I head up our firm's enforcement team and specialise mainly in trade mark and copyright litigation and arbitrations, including trade mark oppositions, trade mark infringement / passing-off, advertising complaints, company name objections, domain name objections, and civil / criminal anti-counterfeit proceedings and complaints. I also deal with non-contentious matters and oversee several large trade mark portfolios. I routinely attend to local and international trade mark availability searches, applications, assignments and licensing / distribution agreements, as well as trade mark due diligence and advisory services.

My practice therefore basically involves all aspects of trade mark and / or copyright-related work. The variety keeps things interesting but, by its nature, brings about its own challenges.

What drew you to a career in law?

I have always been interested in law and being able to present well-articulated arguments, but didn't pursue this as a career option straight out of school. I was also fascinated by medicine at the time and opted for something in that direction instead. After completing a Bachelor of Science degree, I realised that science / medicine, while interesting and at the forefront of innovation, was not the career for me. I recall attending an introductory lecture on intellectual property and went to enrol for a post-graduate degree in law.

What has been your career highlight so far?

This is always a difficult question to answer. If I think back over the past 10 years, of course I am proud of challenging court cases / settlements that have been won on behalf of clients, and interesting matters in which I have been involved. Personally, however, every single "thank you" email from a client is a highlight – as well as the enjoyment I get out of assisting clients with new projects, ventures, ideas, inventions and brands. I am also especially proud of the role that I have played in establishing a well-run enforcement team with an extremely skilled staff complement at Von Seidels.

What is the biggest challenge in your current role?

This is an age-old cliché, but finding time is probably one of the biggest challenges. I still love 'getting my hands dirty' and being involved in mainly contentious work quickly soaks up any available time.

That being said, I recently read an article that highlighted the dangers of telling people that you are too busy. Not only could this potentially start alienating people (who may perceive themselves as being equally busy), but it may also lead to missed opportunities. Therefore, while I might be working hard at finding time, I am never too busy.

If you could change one piece of legislation what would it be?

In South Africa, in view of the technological age we find ourselves in, we have a number of acts and regulations that require reform – including the Supreme Court Act and Regulations and the Copyright Act (currently in the process of being amended). Being able to lodge court documents in electronic form, which would then be accessible on a publicly accessible database, would be extremely welcome.

I would also like to see the enactment of self-standing legislation making provision for specialised intellectual property courts in future.

What do you find most rewarding about working in law?

There are so many rewarding aspects: the stimulating nature of intellectual property law, the variety of work that I am exposed to as part of my practice and finding practical and commercially viable solutions for clients. I also touched on this above, but every single "thank you" email from a client really is a highlight for me.

Seeing something created from nothing is very special to me and, for this very reason, if I wasn't in this line of work, I would probably pursue a career in construction.

What are your plans for the future?

Finding more time, continuing to grow the firm and particularly our enforcement team and, perhaps somewhere down the line, building a few houses!