The litigation team at international mixed firm Kirkland & Ellis burst onto the London scene in late 2018. Headed by former Allen & Overy partner Nicola Dagg, the now eleven-strong team includes five partners, four of which were made up to non-equity status on arrival. And the new team has won clients across a range of industries. This includes in emerging fields which go beyond the usual specialties of pharmaceuticals and mobile communications, perhaps to be expected from such a strong US patent practice. However, despite a large team of litigators, so far the new Kirkland patent team exists for the most part behind the scenes. In these early days it has been involved largely in the advisory and pre-litigation stages, and Kirkland’s partners are noticeably less active in the UK courts. Its first exposure to the Supreme Court, scheduled for early 2020, will come alongside co-counsel Allen & Overy for Regeneron against Kymab over transgenic mouse technology. On the other hand, a clear specialty in pharma has won the team clients in life sciences, such as Meril Life Sciences. Kirkland is seen litigating for some high-profile global telecommunications clients, winning client Xiaomi for a vital FRAND case against NPEs Sisvel and IPCom. This development shows – once again – that the remarkable Nicola Dagg in particular knows how to build up a practice from scratch, as well as acquire top-class clients. Accordingly, Dagg receives a lot of praise from her competitors for this. However, Kirkland also lost part of its Xiaomi capacities in the dispute against IPCom to Powell Gilbert over the course of the year. There is also widespread scepticism in the market on whether positioning Dagg as a strong partner at the top of the pyramid above four young non-equity partners can deliver the necessary quality for this type of practice in the long term. Nevertheless, the entry of the Kirkland patent team into the London market was spectacular. The next months and years will demonstrate its sustainability as a practice.
High-profile pharmaceutical cases, particularly cutting-edge technology such as gene editing (CRISPR). Advice on FRAND and technical patent issues.
Kirkland is still refining its European cross-border coordination, relying on existing client-firm links to secure patent litigation work. It has no patent experts in continental Europe, with its patent resources concentrated largely on the US and London. This could be a detriment to the firm given its involvement in pharma and FRAND matters, which necessitate a coordinated European strategy as far as litigation is concerned. However, Kirkland is acting as coordinating counsel for advice and litigation in several European jurisdictions. It is especially visible coordinating cases for TCL in Paris, and for Xiaomi in the Netherlands. Visibility in the main European court jurisdictions could serve the firm well regarding plans for future expansion including its UPC strategy. This will be clear to the team since Dagg masterminded Allen & Overy’s European expansion before joining Kirkland. Her old firm has demonstrated how to handle high-profile cases throughout Europe from a single source to an extent that only very few other firms are able to compete. This will also be the goal for the Kirkland team.
Nicola Dagg (“A force of nature”, competitors), Steven Baldwin
5 partners, 6 associates
Nicola Dagg (from Allen & Overy)
Patent litigation in pharmaceuticals for medicine manufacturers, emerging technology and telecommunications. Advice on patent portfolio transactions and value issues. Strategic advice on licensing projects.
Litigation: Linpac Packaging (appellant) to the Court of Appeal over revocation of a patent for recyclable plastic food containers; Novartis (claimant) against Dr Reddy’s Laboratories in infringment and preliminary injunction proceedings over oncology medicine; Pfizer for second medical use issue around Pregabalin; Regeneron (claimant; co-counsel with Allen & Overy) against Kymab in infringement and revocation case relating to therapeutic antibody development before the UK Supreme Court; TCL (defendant) against Philips on SEP and FRAND issues; Xiaomi (defendant) against Sisvel and Mitsubishi Electric over SEP and FRAND issues; Xiaomi and MyTech (defendant) against IPCom on SEP and global licences; Meril Life Sciences (defendant) against Edward Lifesciences in infringement and revocation proceedings over heart valve technology. Transactions: strategic portfolio advice for EQT on small molecules.