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Life in IP litigation 

Emma Irwin & Marc Linsner

This month our Trainee Blog delves into the life of trainees in Bristows’ largest department, IP Litigation. Before two of our second year trainees share their insights we thought it would be helpful to give our readers some background information on our IP Litigation team.

The IP Litigation department at Bristows specialises in patent litigation, but the team also frequently advises on the interplay of patent rights with regulatory and competition issues. There is also a degree of overlap with our Brands team to support our trade mark litigation practice. This often serves as a real advantage to our trainees who can therefore be exposed to a huge variety of work during their seat. The patent practice at Bristows is one of the most highly regarded life sciences and TMT practices in the world. Our client base is hugely varied, with teams regularly advising clients from start-ups to pharmaceutical and electronics multi-nationals seeking to defend or assert their technology. Our team is made up of lawyers with scientific and technology backgrounds, which means we are well equipped to advise clients on a wide range of technologies.

Enough of the sales talk, now let’s get some first-hand experience from two of our second year trainees, Marc Linsner and Emma Irwin.

IP Litigation: A lawyer’s perspective (Marc)

On joining our IP Litigation team I was assigned to a piece of patent litigation concerning LED lighting technology. As a trainee with a legal background I’m often asked whether having a non-science background is a disadvantage in patent litigation. Admittedly it was challenging to understand aspects of the technology, but when the lights came on and I got to grips with the subject matter I felt able to make substantive contributions to the team. The nature of the work we do at Bristows invariably involves deeply technical subject matter, as a non-scientist understanding the technology is testing, but it is one of the novelties of patent litigation and should certainly not be seen as a deterrent for non-scientists thinking of applying to Bristows.

My experience of IP litigation was largely steered by that same piece of litigation. The case concerned a number of patents so consumed the vast majority of my time. I found that being focused on one piece of litigation allowed me to be heavily involved with the running of the case and have considerable responsibility for a wide range of tasks. The first week of my seat was spent preparing for and attending an application hearing. From day one the pressure was on and I had responsibility for preparing bundles, organising transcription services, reviewing skeleton arguments and preparing costs budgets. At the hearing itself my role was to set up court and then take note of the key points decided by the Court. Attending court can be daunting, but it is one of the most interesting and beneficial experiences you can have as a trainee. More generally as I grew into the case I took responsibility for preparing statements of case, drafting pieces of advice for the client and working on expert evidence.

From my experience, another key part of trainee life was attending expert meetings. Expert meetings offer a real opportunity to engage with the disputed technology and develop a better understanding of the key legal arguments in play. The role of the trainee is typically to take a note of the significant points discussed and keep track of any action points that arise during the course of the meeting. Expert meetings can be intense and challenging experiences, especially if you are not au fait with the technology. But experts play such a crucial role in patent litigation so I found it hugely beneficial to be exposed to the preparation of expert evidence at such an early stage of my career.

I found the only downside to working on a large piece of litigation is that your exposure to other elements of the practice can be limited to discrete tasks. But that aside, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the department and the experience really did shine a light on day-to-day management of patent litigation and life as a patent litigator.

IP Litigation: A scientist’s view (Emma)

Whilst Marc spent a good part of his time with the department working on the later stages of a case, my experience was rather different. On joining the team, I was drafted into a team that was in the very early stages of a trade mark litigation for a client in the finance sector. The action had been initiated by the claimants in the shorter trials scheme, meaning the case management itself was of great interest to our wider colleagues.  

Due to a CMC being listed shortly after my arrival in the department, the usual trainee task of bundling was fast approaching. Credit must be given to my fellow trainees as we banded together to make sure they were copied and circulated to counsel in plenty of time. It was around this time that I was also able to get involved in the drafting of a large amount of inter-solicitor correspondence on account of the fact that there were very detailed applications being made at this CMC. Attending court and being heavily involved in the organisation of the day itself was a fantastic experience that really inflated my enthusiasm for the case and for continuing my litigation seat.

An order made by the judge at this CMC brought the winds of change in the form of a large amount of disclosure. A fellow trainee and I were in charge of the first round review of our client’s files, where we would look to assess the relevance of the document. An invaluable task that needed to be completed in a thorough and timely manner. Thankfully, assurances were made of a well-earned drink at the end of that week!

Rather differently to Marc, my involvement in the earlier stages of a case meant a lot less time was spent in expert meetings. Instead, our time was spent liaising with the clients and counsel so that the case we were making was the strongest possible. We wanted to be able to take stock of the evidence that was against us and propose the best possible defence to the claims being made. Being in the shorter trials scheme meant the rate of the progression of the case was incredibly fast. Because of this, towards the end of my time in the team was spent researching candidates for potential expert testimony.

Whilst this case did not require the work of a scientific mind per se, I cannot deny the fact that the skills you develop as a scientist were invaluable. Whether this be the ability to solve problems, think strategically or to grasp a new concept. Regardless of your background, it is important to remember that you need to make the most of your transferable skills and take the opportunity whilst in a busy seat to gain as much hands on experience as possible. You might find yourself leaving the department and suffering withdrawal!

To see Marc’s and Emma’s trainee profiles visit our Trainee Profiles page.

For more information on our practice areas and sector focus see here and here.

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To visit Emma Irwin's profile click here