Hardly any other German practice has built up such a profile in connected cars disputes as the German patent team at this US firm. US core client Harman International and its German subsidiary Harman Becker played a key role in the German connected cars suits on the supplier side, which was a real coup for the Düsseldorf team around Holzapfel. The team not only advises Harman intensively on contract law and licences but is also involved in nullity and infringement cases. Indeed competitors claim that Holzapfel was already visible in the proceedings over industry standards for connected cars. McDermott is not alone, however, as the US auto supplier also retained DLA. For other suppliers such as ZF Friedrichshafen, traditional car components play an important role. A logical next step would be for practice to leverage its FRAND know-how to boost its visibility in mobile phone cases. The team would require support from the US practice here though, as many mobile phone manufacturers already have established relationships to European firms. The increased work flow in connected cars pushed the team’s second specialty in chemistry and pharma into the background.
Advice to the auto industry.
The US firm has long been interested in the European (especially German) market. But the small German team with Holzapfel is only the beginning if the firm wants to be at the forefront of European cross-border litigation or the UPC. McDermott has a young patent team in Paris but has failed to hire a starting team in London. A more visible European patents team could benefit immensely from the US if US partners follow the example of the Harmann Becker case and refer clients to Europe on a more consistent basis.
Henrik Holzapfel (“never loses sight of anything during proceedings”, competitor)
3 partners, 4 associates
IP practice with equal specialties in soft IP and technical protection rights. Primarily nullity suits and infringement proceedings. Employee invention law.
Litigation: regularly for Paul Hartmann Group (incl. Bode Chemie); Harman International on audio coding and connected cars (esp. licences and contract law); ZF Friedrichshafen over brakes; Scolmore over plug connections. Advice: Berylls, US auto supplier and Turkish electronics concern on patent licences.