Mark is many things – it would be much easier if I started with what Mark is not. For starters, Mark is not your average lawyer. He is not a meek acceptor of his status quo and is certainly not a follower.
“There’s a certain opportunity in the market right now, and I want to seize it. I wanted to restructure the way we work significantly.” Promulgating a fresh new ideal, Mark deemed it archaic to toil unceasingly till old age, just to climb the ranks. More aligned to the Intellectual Property (IP) arena, he observes that “there will be a wave of local IP commercialisation and copyright-related work, in line with the national vision – Singapore IP Strategy 2030. Many traditional “pure” IP practices are still structurally focused on trade marks and patents.”
It is therefore natural that Mark ventured out to establish That.Legal LLC. Unconstrained by pre-existing practices, he could then realise that which he had envisioned. “I’m quite sure my ex-boss knew from the onset that I would eventually come out and do my own thing,” he shares. It’s fair to say Mark’s strong personality shines through, so much so that it was visible to his then-superior as well.
Upon establishing That.Legal LLC, he shared the thought process behind the lexical choice “That”. Beyond denoting a registered trade mark, it implies an assumption that That.Legal is the go-to firm for anything IP law-related. “We made a list of local firm names and international IP firm names. Upon doing so, we realised that the names we felt were good had less to do with a literary choice, but more to do with the reputation that the firm had built through doing good work.”
Of course, a law firm is worth its weight in lawyers. Having been hired at his previous firm specifically to handle the high-profile Global Yellow Pages v. Promedia Directories  SGCA 28 case, Mark is without a doubt, an exceptional litigator. He is no stranger to public cases, and could even classify the cases he had worked previously according to their differing natures. “The Yellow Pages case was legally novel, and was high-profile because of its significance and impact on Singapore’s IP laws. But the defamation lawsuit [between marathoners Ashley Liew (our client) and Soh Rui Yong (the Defendant)] tugged at the heartstrings of the general population, so the courtroom was full every day.”
Mark shares that one added consideration for cases of great public interest is the need to seriously think through the public relations angle of all actions, interlocutory or otherwise. It is important to ensure the case strategy aligns with and reflects his client’s character and interest.
Instead of merely listening to his achievements, I witnessed Mark’s analytical prowess there and then. When asked to comment on the copyright tussle between Allison Low and Duan Mei Yue, Mark was initially unclear on the facts of the case. Moments after giving him a brief rundown of the details, Mark had developed a logical flowchart, complete with stages of inquiries. “Okay, there are two different legal issues – the copyright angle and the passing off angle. The key issue for any potential copyright claim is, who is the copyright owner of the photo? In respect of a potential passing off claim, is there a misrepresentation that the model is connected to the artist?” He then proceeded to outline the two legal issues and their respective applications under Singapore law.
He credits law school for his analytical skills and logical organisation of his thoughts. It was there that he found his interest in IP law as well. At that point, Mark had chosen to pursue a career as a lawyer, and accordingly focused solely on his law degree, dropping his second degree in business. Shortly after, he went on exchange in Stockholm. Through learning about European IP law and engaging in an exchange of ideas from an international perspective, Mark developed an appreciation for international IP law.
We’ve seen Mark as a litigator and a student. What about him as a boss?
He admits that it was not easy grappling with the management of a firm, including the inflow of work, finances, and human resources. However, he likes that a boutique firm makes for a tight-knit community. “I have one trainee who sings a lot when he’s intoxicated, so we must know how much alcohol to give him before he goes over the edge!” He jokes.
Mark attributes where he is today to “Luck, for the most part. Frankly, it’s about being in the right place at the right time. One of the mantras that I live my life by is inspired by the great golfer, Gary Player, who once said – the harder I practice, the luckier I get.”
Self-assured and sharp, I am therefore surprised when Mark mentions that his first law firm did not retain him as a trainee. He laughs it off good-naturedly and to the young lawyers out there worrying about getting retained, he says: “It’s fine, don’t worry so much lah. Life will find a way.”
He then dispenses a nugget of truth. “No matter what situation you find yourself in, it’s most important to always stay self-motivated and to do your best regardless of the circumstances. If you’re the guy who puts in 110% all the time, you’re more likely to avail interesting opportunities.”
To end off, I ask Mark to give one piece of advice to his younger self. As an IP lawyer, it could not be more fitting that his response was no other than the trade mark slogan of a shoe company that is well-known-to-the-public-at-large.
“If you want it, just do it.”
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to a practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.