Our History

Our History

Rouse began life in 1990 as little more than a lawyer and a big idea. Peter Rouse's vision was to set up a specialist business that not only offered the best enforcement solutions, but also worked closely with clients in a way that big firms couldn't. Fast forward more than 25 years, and Rouse has achieved both objectives and more. Operating as a network of local subsidiaries and closely aligned independent firms working seamlessly together, Rouse is now widely recognised as one of the world’s leading global IP firms.

In the beginning...

As a partner with Baker McKenzie in Singapore, Peter Rouse had first-hand experience of the escalating counterfeiting problem in Asia. He wanted to set up a specialist business that worked WITH IP owners to combat the issue, not simply FOR them. 

Starting out in a serviced office in the Docklands area of London, Peter quickly attracted some of the world's leading brand owners. Within ten years, Rouse had established nine offices in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. And today it is one of world’s leading IP players, with more than 600 staff and 17 offices around the globe.

Early growth

To achieve the results clients were looking for, Peter reasoned that Rouse lawyers would have to work closely with a range of other professionals, in particular specialist IP investigators. Access to the right information was also crucial.

Within its first six months, the business was overseeing what was then a rarely heard of Customs monitoring application for a major automobile manufacturer. Most importantly, it was getting impressive results. More help was needed, so current Chairman, Rupert Ross-Macdonald, was brought on board at the start of 1991, He was joined in 1992 by Stuart Adams, now Head of our Russia office. By this stage, the firm was also beginning to handle major enforcement programmes in Eastern Europe, India and China. And clients liked what they saw.

A foothold in China

Rouse opened an office in Beijing in 1993. But it didn’t stop there.

More and more IP owners were having IP problems in the country, so it brought a group of them together in what became known as the Beijing Action Group. The aim was to develop a common strategy to address the challenges.

Our China practice has grown dramatically ever since, and Rouse now also has offices in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

Willoughby & Partners

The rapidly expanding firm was given a major boost in 1994, when the well-known and highly respected UK trade mark lawyer, Tony Willoughby, joined the London office.

Tony, now retired, is described in legal directories as the 'founding father and leading light of IP in the UK.' Under his guidance, Rouse developed into one of the foremost IP legal practices in the UK. From 1996 to 2006 the firm was known as Willoughby & Partners.

Rouse's strategy from the beginning was to be solely IP focused and, in its early years, the firm forged an extensive reputation for its anti-counterfeiting expertise and experience. From the mid-1990s, however, it set out to broaden its scope and develop expertise in all areas of IP. 

A global player

Rouse began a dramatic geographical expansion in 1997, with the opening of offices in Dubai, Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta, as well as the acquisition of a commercial IP and trade mark practice in Oxford.

In 1998 the trade mark filing practice began to expand too, with the arrival of Mark Foreman from Clifford Chance in the UK. Since then, trade mark filing practices have been developed in all other offices.

Time for change...

Peter Rouse eventually decided it was time to pursue other opportunities, and in 2000 Rupert Ross-Macdonald (looking only a little older than he had in 1991) took over as Chief Executive.

The firm continued to go from strength to strength, and its regional presence in South East Asia grew further with the opening of an office in Bangkok in 2000.

Broadening scope

In London, the arrival of experienced patent litigator, Diana Sternfeld, in 2001 saw the start of Rouse's patent practice and the continued expansion of its reputation beyond 'soft' IP enforcement. 

The firm's 'hard' IP practice developed further with the acquisition of a UK and European patent agency in 2003, which meant that both patent agency and patent commercialisation services could now be provided in all offices. At this point, Rouse was providing the full range of IP services from 14 offices around the world. 

Eye on the future…

Rouse began managing major enforcement programmes in India during the early part of the 21st century. And the firm has gone on to establish operations in the Philippines. Most recently, offices have opened in Africa in 2015, Cambodia in 2017, and Sweden and Shenzhen in 2019 cementing our reputation as the IP firm for the emerging economies.