The London boutique is universally regarded as a market leader with a remarkable reputation for its litigation work, both at UK courts and on major international disputes, where it often plays a coordinating role. Relations to leading pharmaceutical corporations are particularly outstanding and the ties to the US have always been deep. The frequency with which the senior partners are recommended is remarkable – Penny Gilbert in particular provokes almost passionate approbation for her work in pharmaceutical cases, both in the London community and across Europe. However, that praise is often countered with the back-handed compliment that the reputation relies too heavily on the group of partners who set up the firm some ten years ago. Competitors – especially at larger international firms – like to point to what they see as a lack of strength in depth. In truth, this is more wish-fulfilment than based in reality, since anything but the most superficial analysis of the Powell Gilbert track record points to the opposite. The emergence of Bethan Hopewell and Peter Damerell in particular over the past two years demonstrates the firm’s ability to produce highly regarded patent litigators in the UK. The firm was involved in most of the major cases over the past year with the work on Huawei against Unwired Planet, Actavis against Warner-Lambert over Humira and Kymab against Regeneron at the UK Supreme Court. Its work for Biogen concerning Humira and for Chinese mobile device makers Lenovo and Xiaomi in their disputes with IPCom were especially prominent as well. With their work in the most important mobile communication disputes in the UK, the partners have proven their outstanding quality in this field. But the recognition also included criticism that the Powell Gilbert teams may not yet be optimally positioned at the interface between patent and antitrust law. Patent teams such as those at Bristows, Hogan Lovells and Allen & Overy are perhaps a step ahead of Powell Gilbert by working closely together with their own antitrust lawyers, says one in-house lawyer.This criticism remains an exception, however, since it was highly encouraging that it was through the work of some of the younger partners that the firm supplanted major international firms on major cases for international clients. This once again highlights one of the firm’s major strengths: its experience in coordinating complex Europe-wide litigation. Whether this will continue to be the case over the coming year is the major strategic issue for the firm.
Outstanding (international) reputation for litigation with deep bench of lawyers. Partners are at the forefront of developments in pharmaceuticals as well as telecommunications.
The London-based boutique is proud of its independent status and relies on its strong relationships to other leading patent firms across Europe. Strong relations to US firms have allowed Powell Gilbert to specialise in pan-European coordination of cases for US clients. Whether this will be maintained at such a high level after Brexit and the possible start of the UPC is the major strategic question facing the firm. Powell Gilbert likes to emphasise that its leading role in such coordination work grows organically out of its client relationships for work in the UK, and is thus based on its technical and legal expertise with the international coordination work as added value. Depending on how the UK market and the role of UK courts develop over the next few years, Powell Gilbert may be forced into intensifying work which it has viewed as intellectually unattractive, i.e. European litigation without a substantial UK aspect but where Powell Gilbert maintains the primary client contact to a mostly US client base. If the UPC starts without the UK, Powell Gilbert’s major challenge would also be how to ensure substantial knowledge in UPC law without direct access to the European patent court.
Penny Gilbert (“unquestionably a leading UK litigator in pharma cases”, “tough, competent, decent person”, “excellent, she is everywhere, including Europe”, all competitors), Tim Powell (“excellent litigator”, competitor), Alex Wilson (“brilliant strategic mind, who can always see the broader view of things”, competitor), Ari Laakkonen (“strong in telecommunication disputes”, client), Bethan Hopewell (“excellent Europe-wide coordination”, competitor), Peter Damerell, Zoë Butler (“strong partner with a high profile in the pharma and biotech markets”, competitor)
10 partners, 17 associates, 1 of counsel
Broad range of patent law. Particularly strong in litigation including revocation cases and EPO proceedings (both in the UK and pan-European coordination of cases). Strong client base in pharmaceuticals, mobile technology and engineering.
Litigation: Huawei (defendant) against Unwired Planet on patent disputes and FRAND trial before the UK Supreme Court; Lenovo and Xiaomi (defendants) against IPCom in preliminary injunction and infringement proceedings over SEP and FRAND issues (both public knowledge); Lenovo (defendant) against InterDigital on infringement over SEPs including FRAND trial; HEVC Advance (defendant) against Vestel on trial over abuse of dominant position including FRAND issues; Garmin against Philips over two patents involving GPS fitness devices; Actavis (defendant) against Warner-Lambert on second medical use of pregabalin patent; Biogen (claimant) on European litigation strategy for Humira biosimilar as well as in UK litigation against Abbvie (including arrow declarations and revocation case over adalimumab); Coloplast (claimant) against Salts Healthcare on infringement and revocation of patent for ostomy bag; Edwards Lifesciences (claimant) on multinational dispute against Boston Scientific’s patents on transcatheter heart valves; Edwards Lifesciences (defendant) against Abbott on heart valve repair medical devices; Illumina (claimant) against Ariosa and TDL in infringement and revocation claim over technology for foetal diagnosis of chromosomal abnormalities as well as coordination of global litigation; Genevant Science on EPO opposition proceedings; GSK on launch of HIF-PHI drug daprodustat including revocation claim against Fibrogen’s HIF-PHI patent; GSK (defendant) against Merck on revocation case over conjugated pneumococcal vaccines; Kymab (defendant) against Regeneron in infringement dispute before the UK Supreme Court and EPO proceedings over therapeutic antibody development; Napp (claimant) against Sandoz on analgesic transdermal buprenorphine patch.