Written on the 10 February 2015 by Jenna Rathbone


THE head of Brisbane independent law firm McCullough Robertson's Technology Media and Telecommunications Group Malcolm McBratney has been recognised as one of the world's leading trademark lawyers.

McBratney was one of only 74 lawyers (excluding barristers) in Australia and one of only two lawyers (excluding barristers) based in Queensland to be named in the World Trademark Review (WTR) 1000 2015.

Partner McBratney, who specialises in the development of new brands, trademark availability, registration and enforcement and litigation, says it was a great way to start the year.

"Being listed as one of the best trademark lawyers in the world is a reflection not only on my work but also the top tier clients that McCullough Robertson represents and the support that our Intellectual Property and Competition team provides," he says.

The WTR 1000 is exclusively dedicated to identifying the world's leading trademark legal services providers and identifies the leading trademark law firms and individuals in more than 70 global jurisdictions.

McBratney is internationally regarded for his trademark work including his work in successfully facing down McDonald's in a trademark battle over the MCBRAT trademark which achieved global notoriety.

In what was labelled a case of "McDavid beating McGoliath", he won a trademark challenge against fast-food giant McDonald's over the use of 'Mc' on non-food items.

Q&A with Malcolm McBratney

What prompted you to enter the legal industry?

I was always interested in science and technology and for most of my time at school figured I would be an engineer or scientist. One day my engineer father came home explaining that he was working with a technology lawyer on the rollout of Gold Lotto becoming electronic (who remembers the old system?). I though then, 'I'm going to be a technology lawyer' and enrolled in Science/Law at The University of Queensland.

Being the head of a busy industry group in a law firm must be a very demanding job.  What are some of the ups and downs of your role?

The role is a demanding one but I wouldn't say that this is a down side.  We have great clients often at the cutting edge of technology and innovation, we become part of their journey and we take tremendous pride and a sense of achievement in sharing in their successes.  Often the journey can be a tough one but once you get there and you see the appreciation from the client and the innovative changes that they are making in their field it makes it all worthwhile.

Do you have a leadership mantra?

I don't have a leadership mantra apart from not asking someone to do something I wouldn't do myself. We strive as a team to be committed, connected and commercial.  These three c's embody what we believe gets the best results we are dedicated to our clients, we become part of their extended teams and we achieve outcomes that are best for their business and have a long-term outlook. If we know our clients and their industries better, we can give them better advice.

What are some of the challenges and changes McCullough Robertson's Technology Media and Telecommunications Group face in 2015?

The TMT landscape is changing rapidly but that's why we work in this area; that's what makes it exciting.  Technology changes, the law changes to keep up and we react quickly so that we are one step ahead of the game; predicting what our clients will need based on their growth strategy.  In this area you need to not only have a love of the law but you also need a love of technology.  You need to be able to speak your clients' language, whether that be computer code or genetic code, and identify the next hurdle or the next regulatory issue before it happens.  It's worth remembering that in this industry, at this time, a technology company can go from zero to 100 in such a short period that what was right for them yesterday is not right for them tomorrow and we need to be on top of that.  We see all the time how the law is playing catch up to technology and so as a lawyer you also have to be one step ahead of what your clients are doing.  At the same time we have to recognise that many of our clients are literally starting from zero and therefore we have to look at ways in which we can best manage their legal fees to give them the best value and the most support as they grow. We have created a 'startup in a box' package to help startups with the core legal documents they need upfront at an affordable price as an example.

What advice would you give to law students wanting to get into the legal industry?

The legal profession has become extremely competitive in recent years and the calibre of students coming through is extremely impressive.  Students need to ensure that they not only maintain a competitive GPA but are involved both within the university and broader community.  It is also about ensuring that you are staying abreast of the changes and challenges currently facing the profession and economy.  Moreover, you need to start networking early in your career and ensuring that you make the most of any opportunity that comes your way.  You never know when these connections will serve you in the future.

Author: Jenna Rathbone
About: Jenna Rathbone is a Queensland-based journalist who writes on a range of issues including business and property affairs and social issues.
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