“From little acorns …” A brief history of Rouse in Indonesia

Just six people working in a 60 square metre office in the crowded neighbourhood of Pasar Pagi Mangga Dua, the Two Mangoes Morning Market. Or,  perhaps more accurately, it was a meeting that took place in that little office one day in 1996, when Rupert Ross-Macdonald (now Chairman of Rouse), paid a visit to  Gunawan Suryomurcito (now a Rouse Executive and Partner of local law firm, Suryomurcito & Co.).   Rouse Indonesia really grew out of that meeting.

Almost from the outset, when Rouse was first established in 1990, we began doing a lot of work in Indonesia.  The country was awash with counterfeits and local service provision scarce.  Very soon opening an office there seemed the obvious thing to do, which explains why Rupert made that 1996 visit: we needed a local Indonesian lawyer to team up with and Gunawan Suryomurcito, now respectfully and affectionately known to us as Pak Gun, seemed the perfect choice.   The initial meeting went well and several months later Rupert was back for more detailed discussions.  This time too everything seemed to be going according to plan, until discussions were brought to an abrupt halt by a 7.1 earthquake.  After what seemed an eternity, it was Pak Gun who broke the silence to assure Rupert that: “an earthquake is a good sign”.   And perhaps it was - certainly, a few months later Rouse had established an office in Jakarta, and a local law firm, Suryomurcito & Co., with Gunawan as principal lawyer, had been established to work with Rouse.        

Almost immediately, the practice began to flourish, but it was not all plain sailing.  In May 1998, the Asian financial crisis struck and soon Indonesia was in grave economic difficulty. We were still doing well, but the collapsing currency was causing havoc for our finance team.  As resistance to the government increased, our office was able to open only intermittently and finally, as the government collapsed and safety became an issue, it closed completely.   As demonstrations turned to riots and property began to be attacked, the situation was becoming increasingly dangerous.     A tank was parked outside the office, ostensibly to offer protection, and Nick Redfearn, Sara Holder, and Anne Scott (a former Rouse employee) camped out in Anne’s house until they could get a flight out, sending daily email reports to London from a dial-up phone line.  Eventually they all managed to leave - Sara and Anne to Bali, taking a pile of files with them. Although foreigners were not targets, the future was very uncertain at this point.  It was months before normality returned completely. 

Since those early days the firm has expanded to provide the full range of IP services, from patent and trade mark prosecution to IP commercialisation and enforcement.  And this year, it received   ‘Indonesia Firm of the Year’ award at the MIP Global Awards, an Award we were thrilled to receive because Indonesia has always had a special place in the firm’s history. 

So … the little acorn that was planted in 1996 is developing into an oak tree – it may not yet be a mighty oak tree, as the saying goes,  but it’s certainly on the way:  the trunk is straight and strong and the branches spreading.

To find out how our Indonesia office can help you, please contact Lisa Yong.