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Margaret Doucas, 1950 - 2016

By Chris Ryan

Margaret Doucas, leading patent lawyer, philanthropist and animal welfare activist, died in Wellington on 25 February 2016.

She was a director of both Henry Hughes IP Ltd and Henry Hughes Law Ltd. With a back­ground in science and law, Mar­garet Doucas had almost 40 years experience providing stra­tegic intellectual property pro­tection and enforcement advice to the firm's global clients.

Mark Eftimov, a colleague at Henry Hughes, said Margaret was the company's pharmaceu­ticals specialist. "She was han­dling patents on behalf of our mainly global pharmaceutical clients. The work can be ex­tremely complex.

"As Margaret's career developed she also became exposed to the litigation that is associated with this type of work. In order to be more involved in that work Margaret commenced part-time study towards a law degree."

Complementing her science degree gained after she left school, Margaret completed her law degree in 1989 after 12 years part-time study. During her law studies she also completed her patent attorney exams.

She served for many years as a council member for the New Zealand In­stitute of Patent Attorneys, becoming its president  from  1993 to 1995, only the second woman ever to have achieved this honour.

She presented papers at pat­ent attorney conferences in Aus­tralia and Canada and was a fellow of a number of interna­tional organisations in her field.

During the decade of the 2000s, Mark Eftimov says, Mar­garet was involved in a succes­sion of high profile court cases concerning pharmaceutical pat­ents. 

"The most famous of these was the Pfizer case, colloquially known as the "Viagra" case be­cause of its subject matter. It was one where the litigants were en­gaged in disputes all around the world and Margaret was in­volved in the New Zealand arm of that...

"Henry Hughes for the last 25 years has had more female part­ners than male. Margaret, and indeed the firm as a whole, was vey proud of that.

"Margaret was a leader and role model in her field, particu­larly to the women involved in our profession."

Born on 26 January 1950, Margaret was an only child whose father died when she was fifteen. Her mother and grand­mother were evacuated from Greece during the Second World War and Margaret remained for­ever grateful that New Zealand, and Wellington in particular, had offered them a home. She went to Wellington East Girls' College and then studied science at Victoria University of Wellington.

Close friend Theresa Gattung described Margaret as a "... bril­liant, vibrant and compassionate woman."

"Margaret  was  always ahead of her time. She saw well before most others in the patent attor­ney profession that a profession­al qualification and a practising certificate as a lawyer was going to be highly desirable as the pro­fession developed.

"In her career she was a com­plete ground breaker. She was New Zealand's longest serving female patent attorney and was one of the first women, in either New Zealand or Australia, to earn a science degree, a law de­gree and be both a qualified law­yer and a qualified patent attorney...

"She was loyal to a fault in everything, to her family, her friends and her legal colleagues. She was always deeply apprecia­tive that the firm had supported her through the long years of university education then of­fered her the opportunity to be a co-owner of the practice ...

"Margaret was very proud of her career and enjoyed her work immensely and the opportuni­ties it brought her to do what she enjoyed and to travel the world seeing clients."

Margaret Doucas loved ani­mals - it was said at her funeral that she never had fewer than two dogs and four cats. She vol­unteered for the Wellington SPCA from the age of five, and was an early advocate for the eth­ical treatment of farm animals. 

She was instrumental in the cam­paign to move the Wellington SPCA from its Newtown premis­es to the old fever hospital in Al­exandra Road, Mount Victoria.Therese Gattung said Marga­ret had a vision to make a place where animals and people could come together, "...with  a group of  our friends... we set the Wellington SPCA up on a sound financial footing and with the recruitment of a new CEO and the support and love of staff and armies of volunteers this animal care centre became a reality.

"It was certainly one of the happiest days of Margaret's life, Waitangi Day in February three years ago, when the Governor-General opened this centre."

After her mother, Eva, died in 2009, she again worked with Theresa Gattung to set up the Eva Doucas Charitable Trust and for many years operated Eva's Attic shops in Wellington and elsewhere dispensing hundreds of thousands of dollars to animal welfare and women's and chil­dren's causes in the Wellington region and elsewhere.

Theresa Gattung: "Margaret was fearless and she had a tena­cious commitment to those things and people she held dear... She was the most marvel­lous hostess with a tone of bon vivant, a superb cook and she had great fun hosting dinner parties at the home she shared with John and bringing friends and acquaintances together.

"...We are all so very, very grateful that you have been part of our lives. You did indeed leave every organisation and every in­dividual you touched better than before you came along."

This was published in the New Zealand Law Society Wellington branch newsletter, Council Brief, April 2016.

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Last updated on the 29th January 2018