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Which firm will become the biggest for PCC work?

Simon Crompton

Three firms have done the largest number of cases so far at London’s Patents County Court (PCC): Withers & Rogers, Lupton Fawcett and McDaniel & Co. But with the Court becoming ever more popular, which firms will invest the time and people to build an effective practice?

Those three firms have all seen four cases through the PCC since it adopted new guidance on costs and other procedural aspects in 2010. McDaniel and Lupton are both regional, full-service firms – not IP specialists and not names that international IP owners are likely to know.

 Withers & Rogers is a top-notch attorney firm, and lawyers Wragge & Co follow just behind on three cases. Most interestingly, almost every large firm of solicitors has been involved in at least one case: Hogan Lovells, DLA Piper, Taylor Wessing, Bird & Bird, Eversheds, Field Fisher Waterhouse, Bristows, Olswang, Redd, Simmons & Simmons; plus top attorney firms such as Carpmaels & Ransford and Potter Clarkson.

Of course, not all disputes before the PCC ever see the courtroom. Some do not receive a citation number and therefore don't appear in our database of PCC cases. In our cover story this month on the PCC (right), Paul Walsh of Bristows says he has had seven cases involving the PCC, but only one of them made it to court.

The question is, which of these international law firms will find it is worth building up expertise in the PCC, given the usually lower rewards on offer? While litigants will often pay their counsel more in fees than the £50,000 cap on costs awards, the work is always going to be less profitable than work before the High Court. The argument for investing in a PCC practice has to be that developing a reputation there will lead to a large volume of work – and a steadier income – than big-ticket cases litigated elsewhere.

Wragge and Withers & Rogers both say they have made a conscious decision to invest partners' time in the PCC, and their cases reflect that. Both also mention that although the work is less profitable, the number of potential cases is attractice. But no law firms apart from Wragge were as emphatic when they talked to us about PCC work, and no attorney firm comes close to Withers' activity.

Solicitors in particular have commented to me that the expected promotion of Judge Colin Birss to the High Court is making them hold back a little. He has been so instrumental to the Court's success that it is hard to feel confident that it will be as effective if he goes. He pointedly did not answer our question about succession in the interview with him this month.

Whether Birss stays, or whoever his successor, this year is the crucial time to develop a reputation for PCC work. Lawyers and attorneys alike may regret not taking that opportunity if the PCC goes on to fulfill its great potential.

The PCC database can be seen here. Click on the table to enlarge.

This month's cover story on the PCC, including our interview with Judge Birss and three articles giving practical advice on how to make the best of the new procedures, can be seen here.


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