The well-positioned London office of Anglo-Canadian firm Gowling WLG is slowly building a reputation as a go-to firm for telecommunications clients in cases involving FRAND and licensing issues. Well-regarded and highly visible head of Gowling’s tech practice Alexandra Brodie has contributed to the firm’s prevalence in previous telecommunications cases, such as for patent holder Interdigital in the ongoing dispute against Xiaomi, which involves technical 3G and 4G technology as well as FRAND issues. As such, Gowling is now in a good position to challenge firms slightly ahead in the market, such as EIP, in winning further clients in the FRAND area. This ability is further bolstered through the hire of two new litigators, who both specialise in SEP cases.
The firm is also continuing to expand in China, for example via increased staff in its offices in Guangzhou and Beijing. Given the increased interplay between the European and Chinese courts over licensing and FRAND, Gowling is strategically positioned at a telecommunication litigation hotspot. In China, the firm is also expanding its strong client base in automotive and engineering through instructions for companies such as Aston Martin and Dyson.
Although perhaps to the detriment of some areas, such as life sciences, Gowling’s focus on its technical practice is enhancing its visibility in other areas such as in its development of an AI specialism. With precisely this area, which is the focus of recently-appointed partner Matt Hervey, the patent practice is capitalising on the challenges of AI as part of a firm-wide endeavour. For example, the Gowling patent team is well positioned to work with other teams, including antitrust and regulatory partners, to deal with increasing volumes of work. However, the firm is yet to develop any active litigation in the AI department. Its first instruction in this area would cement its position.
On the life sciences side, the firm remains quieter than in telecommunications. However, its traditionally blue-chip client base is an asset when it comes to attracting clients from the pharmaceutical side from other areas of the practice, such as AI. The firm continues to be active on the originator side, with partner Paul Inman leading a major case for Neurim against Mylan over insomnia medication. A further partner promotion, as well as work for BioNTech and GSK, is lending further visibility to the life sciences team.
Gowling now needs to focus its energies on the European side to ensure it is not forgotten amid a raft of cross-border litigation strategies in the wake of the upcoming UPC.
Disputes for SEP holders including FRAND issues. Dedicated AI practice. Strong focus on China.
Its UK practice remains Gowling’s largest, with the past couple of years seeing the firm consolidate its presence in London. Europe-wide, Gowling currently has offices in Paris and Munich. But in Munich, the firm had to cope with the departure of its only two patent partners at the beginning of 2021. As such, the patent teams in both offices remain too small to play an important role in the local markets, and the firm is a long way away from becoming a force in these locations. If Gowling really wants to join the group of top European patent teams and compete in the now-likely UPC, the firm will have to strengthen its German practice in particular. Further lateral hires seem to be the most effective, if challenging, path.
Gowling currently has no presence in Eastern Europe or Scandinavia and instead relies on work referred from these areas through cooperation with other firms. Its work in Canada, the US and China continues to impress.
Gordon Harris, Paul Inman (“a passionate and pragmatic approach to patent litigation; we would collaborate with him again”, competitor), Alexandra Brodie(“extremely competent in FRAND and telecommunications work”, competitor), Matt Hervey (“a key part of our go-to firm for litigation in the UK”, client)
Patent litigation in a wide range of technological fields. Current focus on SEP and FRAND disputes. Portfolio work in 5G technologies and connectivity. Work in AI, including advice and work with the antitrust and regulatory teams.
Litigation: Interdigital (claimant) against Lenovo and Motorola over mobile communications including FRAND; GSK (claimant) against Vectura over inhalers (all public knowledge); Sky (defendant) against Promptu over subscription television boxes; Neurim and Flynn (claimants) against Mylan for infringement of insomnia drug; litigation and transactional work for BioNTech; litigation for GSK. Advice: AstraZeneca on regulatory AI.