JUVE Patent

Rankings UK 2023

WilmerHale – UK 2023

JUVE Comment

As one of a handful of US firms to have successfully set up a London litigation practice, the well-positioned team at WilmerHale continues to make headlines. This is largely through its work for Apple, which takes up much of the bandwidth of the small team – barely a month passes by without WilmerHale being present against patent holder Optis in the courts. Although its mobile communications practice is dominated by the case, with trials spanning FRAND, licensing and technical patent litigation, the team led by Justin Watts is able to demonstrate the equivalent array of knowledge as would be expected among multiple clients. Its competition and antitrust team can work alongside the patent partners on the myraid issues the case presents. However, recently Apple has chosen Kirkland & Ellis to run its work in the battle against Ericsson, which could be a sign that WilmerHale’s monopoly over appearing for the US tech company is slipping.

On the other hand, the WilmerHale London practice continues to demonstrate aptitude in life sciences, especially for pharmaceutical companies and in medical devices. Partner Matthew Shade was instructed by Bristol-Myers Squibb, as co-counsel with Hogan Lovells, to pursue litigation against Celgene over anticoagulent medication Eliquis. It is also working for BMS alongside Pfizer, again as co-counsel, in a case against Sandoz and Teva. Furthermore, Roche instructs the team in a high-stakes case against Insulet over diabetic-insulin-monitoring devices. While the latter case has since finished, the practice is well-positioned to capitalise on connections to life sciences companies via the US practice.

Thus, the importance of the connection between the firm’s US and UK practices cannot be understated. 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. Much of the litigation which ends up on the desks of its London lawyers has started out life in the US courts – it is, essentially, the firm’s bread and butter.

Strengths

Big-ticket litigation for US clients, especially in the telecommunications sector.

European set-up

While WilmerHale has acted as coordinating counsel on cases such as for BMS against Celgene, its small European practice in Belgium and Germany is not yet visible on the patent side – the London team cannot, therefore, rely on referrals from a continental practice.

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. Nowhere is this more obvious than with Kirkland’s latest work for the company against Ericsson.

Recommended individuals

Justin Watts

Team

10 lawyers

Specialties

Almost exclusively litigation work in the London office. Strategic advice regarding litigation in Europe. Strong client relationship to major US corporations in telecommunications, pharma and medical devices.

Clients

Litigation: Apple (defendant) against Optis and Unwired Planet over SEP infringement and revocation (including FRAND); BMS/Pfizer (defendant) against Sandoz and Teva over thromboembolic drug; Roche (defendant) against Insulet over diabetic-insulin-monitoring device (all public knowledge).

Location

London