Australian IP firms hit by cyber breach

Australia’s largest group of intellectual property services firms, some of which have previously worked with the federal government, have had their systems breached in a cybersecurity incident.

IPH – which is publicly listed on the ASX – on Thursday revealed that “unauthorised access to a portion of its IT environment” had occurred earlier in the week, prompting a two-day trading halt.

While investigations into whether information was stolen are ongoing, the company said the “cybersecurity incident” had impacted the case management systems of two of its Australian member firm.

The two firms are Griffith Hack, which is headquartered in Melbourne and claims to be “one of Australia’s largest filers of patents and trademarks”, and Sydney-based and Spruson & Ferguson (Australia).

Griffith Hack has worked with several federal government departments in recent years including Industry, Defence and Education – on the University Research and Commercialisation Scheme – as well as universities and other research institutions.

“Based on preliminary analysis, it appears the incident is primarily limited to the document management systems (DMSs) of the IPH head office and two IPH member firms in Australia… and the practice management systems (PMSs) of these two member firms,” IPH said in a statement.

“The information contained in the document management systems includes documents relating to the administration of these entities and, in the case of the two member firms, client documents and correspondence.

“The practice management systems contain IP case management information (such as filing timelines) relating to the practice of the two IPH member firms”.

IPH said it is now working with external cybersecurity and forensic IT advisors to investigate the incident and determine “whether the information… has been access by the unauthorised third-party”.

Upon detecting the incident, the company sought to secure its IT environment and notified the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

The company said that while the “functionality of some systems has been affected”, it has “transitioned to alternative processes…to enable the relevant firms to continue to conduct operations, albeit with some disruption”, in line with business continuity plans.

“We apologise to our clients and the community for any concern that this incident may cause. We will continue to keep our clients, shareholders and key stakeholders updated as we respond to this event and our investigation continues and further facts are established,” IPH said.

IPH is the largest IP services group in the Asia-Pacific region, consisting of AJ Park, Griffith Hack, Pizzeys, Smart & Biggar and Spruson & Ferguson. The firms employ 1200 staff across 25 countries, including Australia Canada, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand.

According to its latest annual report, the company’s patent market share in Australia is approximately 34 per cent (excluding innovation patents). Griffith Hack has filed more than 64,000 patents between 2018-2021 alone, and manages more than 33,000 trademarks.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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