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Why everyone's talking about Finnegan

It was a notable day for the US law firm Finnegan yesterday. Veteran litigator Don Dunner made his debut at the US Supreme Court at almost exactly the same time as the firm marked the opening of its London office with a seminar and reception

Dunner was representing Allcare in one of two cases concerning attorneys fees heard by the Court yesterday (see our preview for more details). I haven’t seen any reviews of his performance yet, though he’s to be congratulated on generating some laughter in the Court, thanks to banter with Chief Justice Roberts over – ironically – legal fees (see transcript, page 30).

Meanwhile, many of the firm’s top names had flown over from Washington DC to the UK for its seminar. Christine Lehman gave us a useful guide to the International Trade Commission, including the controversy surrounding the Federal Circuit’s recent Suprema decision, while Gregory Gramenopoulos provided some fascinating figures on IPR and CBM cases at the USPTO. He revealed that over 1,000 have been filed, of which 70% are in the electrical/computing area; so far, only one patent has been partially upheld. As he said, the best advice to patent owners is “try not to get into one of these proceedings!”

Interesting as these presentations were, I think many in the audience more curious about why Finnegan has chosen to move its Brussels office to London (right) now. Is it to be closer to clients? Is it more about being well-positioned for the pharmaceutical branch of the UPC central division when it launches? Will the firm compete directly for UK and European work with solicitors and/or patent attorneys? If so, how will that affect its relationships with London-based firms (many of whom were represented at the opening yesterday)? Will it open more offices in Europe (Paris and Munich are the most likely locations)? Above all, will it fare better than other US-based firms that have entered the UK market?

James MonroeThe UK practitioners looking nervously around the room would not have got many answers to these questions – though managing partner James Monroe (left) did note in his opening remarks that “it’s a good time to be a patent lawyer in general” thanks to ever more complex and convoluted laws. The firm says it is hiring to boost its London team (which consists of three fee earners, according to its website), so its intentions should become clearer soon.

With US rival Quinn Emanuel also making an impact on IP work in Europe (though not yet in the UK), European practitioners will be closely watching further developments. The only thing you could safely say after last night is that ‑ with canapés including fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, toad-in-the-hole, scones and strawberries ‑ Finnegan was doing everything it could to make its British guests feel at home.

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