After a turbulent couple of years, the London patent team at this well-positioned international firm is firmly finding its feet. Although historically strong on the side of life sciences clients, Freshfields has recently taken instruction from some major players in the mobile communications industry. Perhaps most impressive is the firm’s win for client Facebook in a High Court dispute over the ‘live’ function on the Facebook mobile app. Although a long-standing client for the firm’s European practice, the social media giant is new to the UK patent team. The firm has also won instruction for a US-based mobile device maker. The new connections indicate the strength of the firm’s pan-European practice, and shows the so-far successful integration of the UK team.
In pharmaceutical and medical devices, Freshfields acted for MSD against Eli Lilly in various court instances. Although this settled in 2019, the close relationship between the firm and MSD is sure to secure future work, particularly given recent developments in legislation surrounding SPCs in European legislation. AstraZeneca is also an important client, brought by partner Christopher Stothers when he joined in 2018.
On the pan-European front, it has been a considerable success that the patent team has been able to integrate so quickly the relatively recently added London team into central client relations. This applies, for example, to the firm’s work for Continental which has led to pronounced visibility in connected cars disputes and has thus marked the firm apart from many of its contemporaries. While the London patent courts are not yet seeing any litigation in this area, the team’s involvement in the technical aspects of connected cars cases before European courts sets it up well for future SEP and FRAND litigation and demonstrates its cross-border prowess. Maintaining strong links between the London practice and the European offices is therefore paramount to its continued development.
However, although adding two extra associates since 2019, the firm only has one partner. The London team’s future success in securing cross-border cases and winning new clients in both life sciences and tech is contingent on building a stronger bank of lawyers in the partnership.
Disputes regarding life science patents.
The patent practice of the full-service firm is particularly strong on the European continent. The Dutch office is a mainstay of this well-integrated European team, with a further strong offering in Düsseldorf and Munich. Although the London office still looks small in terms of litigator numbers compared to competitors such as Allen & Overy and Hogan Lovells, in Amsterdam the well-staffed office stands tall alongside such rivals – for both size and visibility. In Germany, Freshfields is in close sight of the market leaders because of its high-profile clients in the pharma and mobile communications field. The firm’s well-regarded cross-border links are worth noting; Freshfields provides a masterclass on how to ensure all European offices remain part of a well-organised machine. In particular the Amsterdam-Düsseldorf-Munich axis is strong. Slowly but surely Freshfields is integrating the London team on more cases.
On the other hand, Freshfields foregoes patent experts in Paris, preferring to cooperate with the general dispute resolution team instead. This strategy may be in line with the firm’s litigation focus as a whole, but it limits the patent practice as regards cross-border disputes and the UPC – should it ever emerge.
1 partner, 1 counsel, 5 associates
Full-service in IP with a strong focus on patent disputes. Also soft IP, trade secrets advice and transactions.
Litigation: Facebook (defendant) against Voxer over telecommunications patents; Continental (defendant) against Nokia, Sharp and Conversant over connected cars patents; MSD (defendant) against Eli Lilly on UK revocation actions over biologic drug for inflammatory diseases (public knowledge); SEP litigation for US mobile device manufacturer. Advice: AB InBev over brewing technology; ABB over power grid division sales; Bristol Myers-Squibb over haematology products; electronics company in relation to disclosure of licence agreements in third party litigation between Huawei and Unwired Planet.