The stand-out client for the well-positioned London team of this US firm continues to be telecommunications giant Apple. During 2021, scarcely a month has passed without WilmerHale representing the company at the UK courts against patent holder Optis – part of the Unwired Planet parent brand. And the track record, which involves multiple technical trials and FRAND aspects, is no mean feat. Led by frontman Justin Watts, vindication came in November 2021 as the Court of Appeal overturned a judgment in Optis’ favour, much to the surprise of bystanders. And such wins ensure observers continue to regard WilmerHale with admiration, despite client Apple dominating headlines and no doubt taking up much of the small team’s resources.
On the other hand, the WilmerHale London practice has this year demonstrated its capabilities in life sciences, with particular visibility in medical devices. The team, led by Matthew Shade, was instructed by Roche against Insulet over medical devices for diabetic insulin monitoring in a case with high commercial value. The practice is also well positioned to capitalise on connections to other life sciences companies via the US practice, as its London and New York offices continue to enjoy a symbiotic relationship. In the London market, currently only Kirkland & Ellis and to a lesser extent Jones Day can rely on such strong referrals from across the Atlantic.
With no real patent capabilities in continental Europe, these connections are vital in securing future clients for WilmerHale in both telecommunications and life sciences. No European presence is a risky strategy, and the firm must secure a European strategy and its position in London by adding a continental practice now the UPC is ready to start.
Big-ticket litigation for US clients, especially in the telecommunications sector.
The London practice is far more an integral part of the firm’s transatlantic practice than a bridgehead into Europe, and the lack of any real patent practice on the continent means that WilmerHale’s London team could be isolated after Brexit and the introduction of the UPC. However, competitors will find it difficult to break into the firm’s key US client relations regarding the UK. For example, the firm’s most important client, Apple, has long been managed in peaceful coexistence with WilmerHale advising the company in the UK, and Hogan Lovells and Freshfields representing it on the continent. However, work in patent filing and on the advisory side for Apple demonstrate that, even in the UK, the relations to Apple are not exclusive.
Almost exclusively litigation work in the London office. Strategic advice regarding litigation in Europe. Strong client relationship to major US corporations in telecommunications, and pharma and medical devices.
Litigation: Apple (defendant) against Optis and Unwired Planet over SEP infringement and revocation (including FRAND); BMS/Pfizer (defendant) against Sandoz over thromboembolic drug; Roche (defendant) against Insulet over diabetic insulin monitoring device (all public knowledge).