For several years, speculation has abound concerning how well the UK’s boutiques will weather both Brexit, and the potential impacts of the now-imminent Unified Patent Court. However, market-leading firm Bristows remains, alongside direct competitor Powell Gilbert, excellently placed to retain a variety of big-name clients while being a leading name among its European competitors. While it does have strength in mobile communications litigation, Bristows has always been a first choice for life sciences clients; in the past 18 months, nowhere is this clearer than in the firm’s work for multiple pharmaceutical companies on both the originator and innovator side. Long-term client Novartis, for example, has faced numerous competitors such as Zentiva and Eli Lilly in infringement and revocation proceedings at the UK court, coordinated by highly recommended partner Brian Cordery. Competitors invariably describe him as a “top performer” and a “very safe pair of hands”. However, less senior partners are now more frequently taking the helm in such cases, including Gregory Bacon for Novartis in the global fight over fingolimod. “He is strategic, relaxed and pleasant to work with, and has a sense of humour,” says one competitor. But Novartis is soon to diverge with Sandoz; while Bristows has already secured future work for the latter company and its life sciences team remains active for other core clients such as Teva, for example in two campaigns against Bayer, the heightened visibility of the younger Bristows partners is crucial in securing future work. However, with the firm also taking instructions concerning biosimilars, for example for Fresenius in litigation against Samsung Bioepis and Biogen, and other young partners such as Gemma Barrett demonstrating their worth through work for Alcon, the future of Bristows seems secure. A competitor says of Barrett, “She is a strategist who makes strong arguments.”
On the telecommunications side, IPCom continues to make work for lead tech partner Myles Jelf – while the company’s dispute with Vodafone over Crown Use patents concluded in 2021, the battle over damages rumbles on. The hot topic of anti-suit injunctions and related relief has also arisen for the firm as part of client Philips’ attack against Oppo, OnePlus and Realme, and the firm is also involved for Samsung in relation to the misuse of its confidential information in proceedings between Optis vs. Apple, as well as in separate proceedings between IPBridge vs. Huawei. Thus, despite not taking a lead in the UK’s headline FRAND cases over the past two years, Bristows is certainly demonstrating its knowledge in an area which should become more streamlined pending future judgments.
In other areas, the firm is acting for Siemens Gamesa as both claimant and defendant against General Electric concerning patents for wind turbines; conversely, partner Dominic Adair is leading a case for Scientific Drilling over patents for oil wells.
Thus, despite having no offices on the continent, the firm is certainly not being left behind. With its increased willingness to spread work across a generation of partners, it remains a force to be reckoned with in Europe.
Litigation in mobile communications, SEP cases with FRAND issues including jurisdictional challenges. Pharma litigation, especially regarding antibodies and SPCs. Regulatory work.
As a London-based firm, Bristows might seem limited in its reach in Europe. However, its UK team often coordinates parallel proceedings across the continent such as for Janssen against Teva. In life sciences, the firm is also providing litigation support to the Amsterdam office of Freshfields in the firm’s instruction for Novartis against Mylan in Europe. Thus, despite the London location, the continued collaboration with European patent firms indicates that Bristows’ partners are not allowing the practice in London to isolate itself. This attitude will benefit the practice once the UPC begins, especially as Bristows has in the past engaged more strongly than other London law firms with the launch of the UPC. Indeed, it is well known for having strong relationships to many European firms. Although some of them, like Brinkhof and Vossius & Partner, have a privileged status, the recent launch of Vossius Brinkhof UPC Litigators has left Bristows somewhat on the periphery of this classic friendship triangle. However, the UK offices of other firms such as Kirkland & Ellis also already work alongside both firms.
On the other hand, maintaining these links are especially important as otherwise Bristows might lack direct access to the new patent system. The evidence of UPC expertise could lead US and Asian clients to transfer more coordination work from UK to German or Dutch firms. The London boutique may then more heavily rely on its partner firms to consolidate its presence on the continent. To demonstrate practical experience in UPC cases to clients, it could be worth Bristows considering its own offices in the UPC region. It also has a presence in Brussels through a currently unstaffed office. Nonetheless, having its name on European soil is a good strategic move. Otherwise, an office in Munich or Paris with outstanding local patent litigators might be wise for this market-leading UK firm to add to its agenda.
Dominic Adair, Gregory Bacon (“strategist, relaxed and pleasant to work with – he has a sense of humour”, competitor), Gemma Barrett (“she is a strategist who makes strong arguments”, competitor), James Boon, Andrew Bowler (“no nonsense and good to work with”, “experienced litigator”, competitors), Robert Burrows, Brian Cordery (“long-standing leader in IP for both life sciences and technology”, “Brian is a top performer at this market-leading litigation practice”, competitors), Liz Cohen (“a very safe pair of hands”, competitor), Myles Jelf, (“very collegial and inclusive”, “very experienced solicitor”, competitors), Richard Pinckney
Boutique firm with a focus on life sciences, technology and brands. In patents, strong focus on mobile communication, including FRAND and SEP cases, and pharmaceutical work, including biosimilar litigation and second medical use patents. Active for industry clients as well as NPEs. Transactions and regulatory work.
Litigation: Alcon (defendant) against Accord and Aspire over glaucoma treatment drug; Chiesi against Lupin, Teva and Ciplin over asthma and COPD treatment drug; Fresenius (defendant) against Samsung Bioepis and Biogen over biosimilar of adalimumab; Janssen (defendant) against Teva over SPC and dosage; Janssen Oncology (defendant) against Sandoz over prostate cancer drug; Jazz Pharmaceuticals (defendant) against Otsuka over royalties for epilepsy drug; Novartis (claimant) against Bioeq over macular degeneration and eye disease drug, and administration method; Novartis (claimant) against Zentiva over MS treatment fingolimod; Novartis (claimant) against Eli Lilly over psoriasis treatment; Sandoz (claimant) against Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer over apixaban; Sandoz and Polpharma (claimants) against Biogen over multiple sclerosis treatment; Teva (claimant) against Bayer over low testosterone level treatment and sorafenib; Philips (claimant) against Xiaomi over SEP infringement (settled); Philips (claimant) against Oppo, OnePlus and Realme over SEP infringement; IPCom (defendant) against Vodafone over cost recovery following EPO revocation Prysmian (claimant) against Sterlite over fibre-optic cables; Queue-it (defendant) against Orderly Mind over internet commerce queuing systems; Samsung Electronics in proceedings between Apple and Optis regarding misuse of confidential information; Samsung Electronics in proceedings between IPBridge and Huawei regarding misuse of confidential information; Scientific Drilling (claimant) against Gyrodata over oil well drilling; Siemens Gamesa (claimant/defendant) against General Electric over wind turbine technology; Valmet (defendant) against Fiberlean Technologies over breach of confidence in paper manufacturing technologies. Advice: AstraZeneca on licensing projects; Oxford University on COVID-19 vaccine licensing; Syncona on licensing agreement for gene therapies; SynaptixBio on exclusive patent licence and know-how with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Recordati on in-licence for rare disease/orphan licence drug; Stada on acquisition of organic and sustainable range of medicinal, herbal and cosmetic products; LifeArc on licensing deal with the Medical Research Council and Constructive Genomics; developer of solar-power storage sites regarding technology for solar-powered-battery power stations.