In 2021, the promotion of counsel Laura Whiting to the Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partnership doubled the partnership capacity of this well-positioned international firm. With a core aim to develop the Freshfields tech practice, her connection to client Facebook is lending it much-needed visibility. The patent practice is also co-ordinating the case globally while handling parallel litigation in Germany. “We were impressed with Laura’s handling of the Facebook case. The client was a great win for the team,” says one competitor. Undoubtedly, the ongoing work is also helping increase visibility of the Freshfields telecommunications practice, which can sometimes fall under the shadow of its more established life sciences arm. Its expertise in the tech field is also enhanced through the firm’s continued work, in an advisory capacity, for a US-based mobile handset manufacturer, and for start-up Cazoo over software acquisitions.
With two dedicated patent partners, Freshfields should be better able to sustain these industry connections and put the firm in a good position for potential future litigation instructions.
On the other hand the team also lost a counsel, who became a partner at Pinsent Masons. Although this could be a blow for the firm’s life sciences and transactional arm, partner and fee-generator Christopher Stothers has demonstrated the patent team’s integrated position in the full-service practice via a new instruction from the antitrust team at Freshfields. He is also active in regulatory work, most notably through his life sciences client base, also winning another key client with a focus on pharmaceutical research. His work for AstraZeneca also marries these elements together with traditional patent work, while the two new instructions also feed into a core strength of the patent team: a cross-border practice which successfully integrates its European offices.
In terms of cross-border expertise, car manufacturer Continental also continues to seek advice from the London office over FRAND issues. The car supplier, whose instruction came via the firm’s German partners, is very visible in connected cars litigation in Germany.
Patent disputes regarding life science patents.
The patent practice of the full-service firm is particularly strong on the European continent. The teams in Amsterdam, Düsseldorf and Munich are the mainstays of this well-integrated patent practice. 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 this year closed the gap to the market leaders because of its renewed strong presence in high-profile cases in the pharma and mobile communications fields.
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. Moreover, because of the strong pharmaceutical focus, the weak presence in Milan as a potentially important UPC location could prove to be a disadvantage.
Christopher Stothers (“impressive; a real technician”, “great on the regulatory side”, both competitors), Laura Whiting
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; MSD (defendant) against Eli Lilly on UK revocation actions over biologic drug for inflammatory diseases (public knowledge); frequent work for AstraZeneca. Advice: Continental on technical aspects in infringement and validity cases over Nokia’s, Sharp’s and Conversant’s connected cars patents before German courts and the EPO; Continental regarding complaint against Nokia before the EU Commission on abuse of use of its SEPs; US mobile device manufacturer regarding SEPs (public knowledge); Aston Martin Lagonda over strategic cooperation with Mercedes Benz; AstraZeneca over acquisition of Alexion Pharmaceuticals; Cazoo over software-intensive acquisitions; Jefferies over DarkTrace public offering; Parker Hannifin over takeover of Meggitt.