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What the awards shortlists tell us about IP practice

James Nurton

Managing IP has published the shortlists for the Global and North America Awards 2013. Who will be the winners this year and what trends do the shortlists reveal?

Are you over the Oscars? Bored by the BAFTAs? Well, the good news is that it is less than two months until Managing IP’s Global Awards Dinner on April 17, and we have just published the shortlists online.

Hogan Lovells 2012 We will present trophies to the outstanding firms of the past year in more than 40 countries from Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America as well as the winners of regional and global awards. Winners in the US and Canadian categories will be recognised at the North America Awards in Washington DC on March 19 – shortlists here.

We look forward to seeing representatives of the shortlisted firms and their guests at what promise to be two memorable dinners, where we will also recognise outstanding individual achievements in the IP field. Between now and then, of course, our editorial team in London, New York and Hong Kong will be busy reviewing IP developments and cases from the past year as we select worthy winners. It’s too soon to give anything away, but we can say that thanks to the smartphone patent wars, the owners of SPCs and their challengers, and the people responsible for test cases in trade marks and copyright, this year will prove particularly competitive.

Taking a step back, our awards shortlists also reveal some interesting trends about IP practice. For example this year, for the first time, we have categories for work at the EPO and OHIM. This reflects the fact that many clients now view Europe as a single market, something that will only increase if/when the unitary patent is up and running. Will that force patent and trade mark firms to compete on a more European level too, opening offices in multiple countries and putting an end to cosy referrals between firms in different countries? Will it lead to more convergence between law firms and patent/trade mark agencies? Will it finally enable US firms to crack the European market, where so many have tripped up before? Time will tell (although you can read some early predictions in the February issue of Managing IP).

Two Birds 2012 Another trend is evident in North America this year, where we are pleased to present new awards recognising outstanding IP litigators in various American states as well as Canada. These are based partly on research conducted by my colleagues in New York for our new publication IP Stars, and reflect the fact that especially when it comes to big-dollar litigation many clients now hire the individual as much as the firm: trial lawyers have become brands.

For the second time this year, we will present an award to the Global Firm of the Year at our dinner in London. To win this award, a firm must be strong at least in the United States, Europe and Asia. The field is surprisingly small, and provides a reminder that in IP (unlike say corporate law or accountancy) small firms (some of them still essentially family-run) dominate in many countries. In the long-term, I think that will have to change: more harmonisation, less need for referral work between firms, more direct relationships with clients and above all client demands for efficiencies are bound to have an impact. In the short-term, however, we have to pick a winner from a shortlist of five. Last year it was Hogan Lovells. Find out who wins in 2013 on April 19.


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