February 14, 2019

Meet the Team: Gus Hazel, Partner

Originally from Australia, Gus heads our Auckland Litigation Team and is experienced in all-things-litigation and dispute driven in both countries. Gus has been ranked in local and international IP law profiles. In recent years he has acted in a series of New Zealand High Court matters including landmark industrial copyright cases that have been watched with worldwide interest.

He is known for his love of mountaineering, an obsession that has seen him convert much of his inner city apartment into a climbing/bouldering wall, complete with synthetic ice! Needless to say, his girlfriend is thrilled with the renovations… but wonders when he will learn how to operate the oven.

How did you get into IP law?

Thinking I would follow my father’s footsteps and become a doctor, I spent many summers as a teenager working in the hospital, particularly the haematology lab.  One boss I had there, designed test kits for various illnesses and infections -the chlamydia test kits are something I wish I could forget! He was an expert in drug detection and was called as an expert witness in a major horse doping trial. Although there was clear evidence that tampering was involved and the trainer had been framed (drugs had been added to the horse’s urine after collection), the Judge did not understand the scientific evidence and upheld the conviction. I was shocked to see the system fail so clearly and that sparked my interest in law and justice. I went on to study Molecular Biology and Law, then specialised in IP. I taught law at Monash University, Melbourne, worked for the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia for several years, and then worked in private practice in Australia before moving to New Zealand in 2005.

Tell us about a client that you think is doing interesting things:

Often our clients’ products seem simple, but are actually extremely innovative. For instance, USG’s products look like standard gypsum (‘gib’) board but a huge amount of R&D has gone into creating a more lightweight and fire resistant panel, which  has huge flow-on effects. Their products reduce manufacturing resources and because it’s lighter, less structure (such as steel) is required as support, which also cuts down on concrete, energy, transport and leads to fewer injuries to workers. These things seem simple but the financial, environmental and social impacts are huge.

What do you love about your job?

Learning about new things and working with people who are so passionate and knowledgeable about their industry or specialty. The researchers at USG, for example, have spent their careers focused on improving fire-resistant building materials – literally burning down hundreds of structures to make fire spread more slowly and buildings safer.  It’s amazing to learn how much goes on behind the scenes of what appears to be a simple product, but isn’t at all when you get beneath the surface.

What has changed in the industry since you started?

IP law has become much more specialised. Years ago, patent attorneys commonly did a bit of everything – now we have IP experts that specialise, not just in a field, but a sub-field with particular areas including med-tech, food and beverage, mechanical, electronic etc.

The other big change is in what used to be the ‘developing economies’. The classic example is China, which once had a reputation as a place where IP was infringed or copied, but is now the source of much cutting edge research and is the largest filer of patents worldwide.  The speed with which China and other places have transformed themselves from (crudely speaking) copiers to innovators is remarkable. At it’s best that is what IP law is all about – encouraging and rewarding innovation, ultimately for the benefit of us all.

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