Reciprocity Isn't (Necessarily) A Dirty Word

Published date01 June 2023
Subject MatterCorporate/Commercial Law, Corporate and Company Law, Corporate Governance, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Law FirmJMB Davis Ben-David
AuthorMr Jeremy M. Ben-David

Dear Foreign Associate,

I'm sorry that we missed each other at INTA in Singapore. My schedule was so full that it just didn't work out. I hope you had an enjoyable conference, as I did. My colleagues and I met up with some foreign associates that we have known for a number of years, some of them for almost as long as I have been going to INTA (since 1998) so that we regard them as personal friends. Incidentally, knowing that our clients' matters are properly taken care of helps me sleep better at night.

So, as we didn't meet, allow me to set out for you some of what we may have discussed, had we met.

Not the dreaded "R" word

I know that we all grew up in different business cultures, and as a trainee it's difficult not to adopt the prevailing values, particularly when one of those values is thought to be directly affected by our relationships with our foreign associates. That value, of course, is Reciprocity.

Don't get me wrong. Reciprocity is not a bad word. I will never refer to it as the (dreaded) "R" word. Reciprocity can be bad, but it can also be amazingly good. That all depends on what we understand by it, how it influences the way that we each represent our own clients, and the way that we jointly represent each other's clients.

I'll explain.

Our Clients

Let's first of all discuss our clients. We contract with our clients to provide them with professional services, to the full extent of our professional and ethical abilities. That's what they pay us for.

Clients want us to ensure that the "job" will get done in the best way that gives them the rights that they want, at a reasonable cost and within a reasonable time frame. They normally don't know you, our foreign associate, directly and they thus rely on us to arrange their representation in a professional, timely and cost effective manner.

That means that they don't want us sending you their cases because we expect to receive work back from you or because we "owe you"....

Bad Reciprocity

Clients normally don't know exactly what needs to be done in order to obtain IP rights in your country. They do know that we are not qualified to secure their rights in your country, but they do rely on us to seek out good representation. The last thing that they want us to do is to turn their business assets into part of a barter arrangement, so as to become entangled in your interests and ours. That's the bad side of Reciprocity. And whether it is based on counting cases or dollars, it makes no difference. And...

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