The well-positioned London office of Anglo-Canadian firm Gowling WLG continues to play a steady role in the UK market, with its current visibility leaning heavily on the high-profile case between its client Interdigital and Lenovo. The case, led by partner and co-chair of the firm’s global tech group, Alexandra Brodie, spans multiple technical and FRAND trials, including 5G technology. However, at the end of 2021, Interdigital also announced multiple patent infringement suits against Oppo – but has instead turned to Bird & Bird to conduct proceedings in the UK. With one competitor noting that the firm is “known for representing NPEs, they are aggressive litigators”, this will be a blow for Gowling. However, in such cases, the firm’s competition and regulatory practices also work closely alongside the patent partners to provide expertise in the licensing area. Other tech clients, such as the firm’s now-concluded work for Comcast and Sky against Promptu Systems, demonstrate that the firm has the skill to handle multi-jurisidictional patent actions.
While Gowling’s large tech practice has sometimes overshadowed its life sciences work, the firm has an almost continual presence for long-term client Neurim alongside Flynn in its case against Viatris in the UK courts. The case is now at the damages stage. Lead life sciences partner Paul Inman is also litigating for GlaxoSmithKline against Pfizer in a suit concerning two patents for a new product. But it is perhaps in advice where the firm’s most impressive retention of clients is, such as for BioNTech, which Gowling continues to advise on research, development and collaboration with Pfizer to develop a potential mRNA-based vaccine. It also works for AstraZeneca, as well as for Amphista Therapeutics on the development of protein-degrading therapeutics. However, although Gowling is slowly firming up its presence in related areas such as diagnostics, it is yet to win any clients in the medical devices space. This is perhaps an anomaly for a firm with strong credentials and a large partner base that spans expertise across the telecommunications and life sciences sectors.
Furthermore, the London team’s specific interest in AI makes it well-placed to attract litigation and advisory work in this area. Matt Hervey steers the ship here –he has won a new client for strategic advice in AI, as well as ongoing work for a leading life sciences company on a similar topic. Again, this is yet to transfer into any concrete litigation. However, with the long-running Dabus case soon to appear before the Supreme Court, the outcome might clear a path for Gowling to take the lead in any future AI-related cases in the UK.
Disputes for SEP holders including FRAND issues. Dedicated AI practice. Strong focus on China.
Its UK practice remains Gowling’s largest in Europe, with the past couple of years seeing the firm consolidate its presence in London, although it also has a strong base in Birmingham. Europe-wide, while Gowling currently has offices in Paris and Munich, it has minimal patent or IP capacities in the latter. 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 upcoming UPC, the firm will have to strengthen its French and German practices in particular, with visible litigators at partner level. 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.
Alexandra Brodie (“an aggressive litigator known for litigating on the tech side”, competitor), Huw Evans, Gordon Harris, Paul Inman
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; litigation for a Japanese multinational consumer electronics company; Comcast and Sky (defendant) against Promptu Systems over speech recognition technology; Neurim and Flynn (claimants) against Viatris for infringement of insomnia drug patent, including damages; GlaxoSmithKline (defendant) against Pfizer over product launch; litigation for biotechnology company over trade secrets; litigation for pharmaceutical company over entry of generic drug into UK market. Advice: BioNTech in collaboration with Pfizer regarding development of mRNA-based vaccine; European food company over potential patent strategy and FTO in relation to European patent application concerning the chemistry of certain food products; AstraZeneca regarding transaction with Scorpion Therapeutics over cancer treatment; Amphista Therapeutics on strategic collaboration and licence agreement with Bristol-Myers Squibb for small-molecule protein degraders; Amphista Therapeutics on strategic collaboration with Merck Healthcare; Immedica Pharma regarding licence and supply agreement with Actinium Pharmaceuticals to commercialise Iomab-B; Oxford BioTherapeutics on collaboration with ImmunoGen for development of antibody-drug conjugates to treat cancer; Sosei Heptares on collaboration with Cancer Research UK on in-human trial for cancer immunotherapy drug candidate; Sosei Heptares on collaboration with Neurocrine Biosciences to develop novel muscarinic-receptor agonist compounds; Eisai on agreement to divest its rights for zonisamide to Advanz Pharma; Bial on agreement with Sunovion Pharmaceuticals to commercialise apomorphine sublingual film; Crescendo Biologics partnership with BioNTech regarding work on immunotherapies.