Having recently become the largest English-speaking country in the European Union, Ireland looks set to cement its position as a central IP hub in the region. Many UK patent firms continue to expand their foothold in the country and sources suggest that players from the United States and beyond may now be more likely to turn to Irish firms for EU representation. This potential interest from overseas is merely a bonus, however, as domestic innovation is also thriving. Medical technology remains a hotspot, although start-up funding is also pouring into new areas such as pure electronics, generating ever more challenging work for the country’s patent professionals.
Firms: litigation and transactions
- Mason Hayes & Curran LLP
- McCann FitzGerald
- Whitney Moore
- William Fry
- A&L Goodbody
- ByrneWallace LLP
- DFMG Solicitors
- Pinsent Masons
Full-service commercial law firm A&L Goodbody counts intellectual property among its key strengths and has represented marquee clients in many headline-grabbing patent cases over the last decade. The firm’s patent experts have also played a part in shepherding numerous major M&A and other transactions across the line – work they undertake in close collaboration with their colleagues in the tax, competition and other departments. Meanwhile, recent contentious highlights include advising Abbott, Boston Scientific and Amgen in High Court patent proceedings. The broad knowledge base of commercial and technology group head John Whelan extends far beyond patents to encompass regulatory and data privacy matters. He also has an international outlook, having previously established and managed two of the firm’s US offices.
Though modestly sized, Acuatus is a well-respected boutique thanks to the efforts and reputation of founder Alistair Payne, who established the firm five years ago after more than a decade heading up another leading practice. His clients largely hail from the manufacturing and life sciences spheres: as an example, Mylan Pharmaceuticals recently enlisted him to act on its behalf in major SPC-related patent infringement proceedings against Gilead. The personalised service he provides and the stellar results he secures in consequential multi-jurisdictional matters make for a winning combination.
Patent and technology transactions are the metier of ByrneWallace, a corporate law firm which has been a fixture on the Irish market for more than four decades. The group is increasingly teaming up with university-based technology incubation centres to assist them in commercialising their research, to superb effect. Colin Sainsbury has the magic touch when it comes to IP-driven international transactions and equity investments. He enjoys immense credibility in the life sciences industry, having previously served as senior vice president and general counsel of Elan Pharmaceutical Technologies.
Innovators of all stripes in sectors as diverse as food technology, farm machinery and medical devices flock to DFMG for game-changing answers to their contentious and transactional questions. Ready partner access and hawkish attention to detail are hallmarks of its attentive, solutions-oriented approach. IP head and solicitor Patricia McGovern is a veritable Swiss Army knife of a practitioner, having spent more than three decades advising on IP strategy, acting in patent infringement proceedings and handling complex transactions.
Boasting a 90-plus year pedigree, FRKelly ranks among Ireland’s most venerable patent prosecution shops. With an affinity for the nuts and bolts of drafting and registering patents with the Irish, UK and European patent offices, it also shines on the design and implementation of overarching patent strategies. Three bases in Dublin, Cork and Belfast grant it ample coverage on both sides of the border, to the benefit of a clientele ranging from domestic start-ups to heavyweight US corporations. Managing partner and biochemistry PhD Maura O’Connell is one of the eminent life sciences experts on deck; she works alongside cell biology PhD Donal Kelly, a confident representative in EPO administrative proceedings and a regular speaker at conferences. Physicist David Brophy is an anchor on the high-technology side.
Precision patent drafting and persuasive performances in EPO oppositions and appeals are the USPs of prosecution powerhouse Hanna Moore + Curley. Its “high-quality strategic advice, efficient service and excellent value proposition” have earned it the loyalty of household names such as Microsoft and BlackBerry. Founding partner and chartered physicist Barry Moore is a seasoned prosecutor with a keen strategic mind and abundant contentious nous. Fellow namesake Donnacha Curley is a trusted guide for agritech, software and electronics players, from inception right through to acquisition. He enjoys an elevated profile on the patent scene, serving as president of the Irish Association of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys. Electronics and software are strongholds for Anthony Kavanagh and Conor Boyce: Kavanagh is a PhD in atomic physics who is known for his ability to patent the unpatentable, especially within the AI space; while Boyce has an insider’s perspective from his time as a senior patent attorney at IBM. On the life sciences front, industrial chemist and polyglot Marie Walsh manages the firm’s activities in China: “Marie is an efficient, effective, creative problem solver who has solid technical understanding and knows how to deal with patent examiners. Her business acumen and proficiency in the area of freedom-to-operate client counselling are especially notable.” Also working in the life sciences, on everything from SPCs to plant variety rights, is genetics specialist Anna Hally: “Anna is extremely technically knowledgeable and her approach is pragmatic; she understands the nuances and challenges of pharmaceutical development and product commercialisation. Her professionalism is second to none; she is always flexible; and she finds solutions to what are often complex and difficult issues.” Optoelectronics expert Catherine Hanratty adds an invaluable extra dimension as a former EPO examiner: “Catherine is a patient and polite person who keeps abreast of changes in the EPO’s procedures and practices and adjusts her advice accordingly, suggesting a course of action that gels with the client’s goals.”
With 21 bases in six countries across the continent, HGF has outstanding European reach, giving its Irish practitioners – based in Dublin and Westport – an incredibly deep pool of resources to draw upon in supporting their clients. With Craig Thomson at the helm, it makes light work of complex prosecution, advisory and transactional briefs in the life sciences. Garnering rave reviews, Thomson “brings a rare level of commercial and strategic insight to managing intellectual assets. He’s available 24/7 and is a hands-on partner who forms an essential part of client teams. He understands broader business strategy and the role of intellectual property within it, and ensures that portfolios only comprise patents that have value.” Recent highlights include helping to develop two principal patent portfolios for Novabiotics; supporting Queen’s University Belfast on patenting in the medicine, health and life sciences spaces; and conducting a full IP strategy review for Capri Medical.
Keltie has extended its sphere of influence in the Irish IP market and its Galway-based team has been picking up increasingly sophisticated instructions as a result. By way of example, it recently coordinated a sweeping international filing programme spanning multiple continents and regional filing systems on behalf of Priority Drilling. Maintaining a strong focus on the medical device and life sciences sectors, it has also undertaken tasks of commercial and strategic significance for the likes of Versono Medical, which is innovating in the endovascular therapy domain. Taking the reins is Sean Cummings, a patent, designs and brands expert with an agile technical mind and a flair for dispute resolution.
Mason Hayes & Curran LLP
Mason Hayes & Curran’s dedicated IP team has featured in many of the most significant patent battles on Irish soil in recent years, as well as in actions taking place within the pan-European context. It recently defended Celltrion in patent infringement proceedings brought by Biogen, F Hoffmann-La Roche and Genentech – one of the first cases in Ireland to deal with the infringement and invalidity of biosimilars. The firm also maintains a vibrant IP structuring, licensing and transactional practice and has cemented its position as a go-to for commercial IP matters. A high-profile illustration of this is its representation of the minister for communications, climate action and environment on the IP and technology aspects of the rollout of Ireland’s National Broadband Plan – one of the largest, most expensive and complex contracts ever entered into by the Irish state. Gerard Kelly and Brian McElligott call the shots on this matter. IP head Kelly regularly appears before the Irish courts and is on speed-dial for many pharmaceutical heavyweights; while non-contentious whizz McElligott is admired for his commercial awareness and vision within the AI space.
“McCann FitzGerald is one of the top firms in Ireland for high-value patent disputes. The team is very responsive, provides excellent advice and takes commercial and regulatory concerns into account when formulating litigation strategy.” The firm casts its net impressively wide: recent instructions include a significant SCP matter on behalf of Gilead and a high-stakes FRAND licensing dispute involving Vodafone. Heading up the practice is the esteemed Fiona O’Beirne, who puts in resonant performances in multi-jurisdictional patent disputes. Her right-hand man is Shane O’Brien, who is well versed in the specifics of Irish patent law across both pharmaceuticals and technology. Together the pair co-authored the Ireland chapter of the second edition of International Patent Litigation: Developing an Effective Strategy.
Since it was established just two years ago, Pinsent Masons’ Dublin base has gone from strength to strength, garnering acclaim from established competitors as “one of the key new ventures to have recently emerged on the market”. The life sciences is a happy hunting ground: the firm acts for numerous big names in the space, including Teva Pharmaceuticals, for which it has been handling a set of patent revocation proceedings. Litigation head and office founder Ann Henry leads on this work and has been involved in several IP policy submissions at a national and European level. She was recently joined by new co-leader Michael Finn, who was previously IP disputes head at Matheson and has expertise in related areas such as trade secrets, data protection and competition law.
PurdyLucey’s seven technically skilled European patent attorneys are adept at building bespoke, comprehensive strategies for the prosecution, enforcement and defence of clients’ patents. Highly qualified in areas such as medical technology, high technology and engineering, they have helped countless Irish start-ups to achieve global success; competitors confirm that “the firm has heavily invested in its client base”. Giving the group its name are Barry Purdy and Michael Lucey. Purdy has spent more than 25 years crafting IP strategies on behalf of material science, biotechnology and medical technology companies; while electronics and software maven Lucey is a favourite of US high-technology corporations and frequently appears in oppositions before the EPO. Both are also valued advisers to many of Ireland’s leading universities and their spin-outs. Steering the life sciences side alongside Purdy is Mark Carmody, who has a PhD in biochemistry and a cosmopolitan perspective from a stint at an IP firm in Japan. Alongside his drafting and prosecution work, he provides infringement, validity and freedom-to-operate opinions to clients from as far afield as South Africa, Korea and Canada. Also on board is senior associate Naoise Gordon, whose former role within the patent department of Unilever gives him valuable in-house insight.
Tomkins & Co
Prosecution outfit Tomkins & Co has been a fixture of the Irish IP community since 1930, but has always moved with the times: today, its dynamic service includes unique web portal BELLAMY, through which clients can monitor their IP portfolios round the clock. FTSE 100 companies and other innovators depend on it not only for watertight patent applications, but also for holistic IP advice that is strategic, commercially inclined and creative. Managing the operation is “safe pair of hands” Cathal Lane, who takes a multidisciplinary approach and forges close relationships with clients’ in-house lawyers and tax advisers. His academic background in chemistry, combined with agricultural experience and a period spent at Bristol Myers Squibb, makes him a technical renaissance man. Also adept in the life sciences is molecular biology PhD Christina Gates; she ably assists biotechnology companies, but also has a facility for software and digital patents. On the engineering side, physicist Olivia Catesby has expanded her scope to support high-technology clients in areas such as wireless technology and imaging systems; her pristine track record before the EPO, meticulous due diligence and astute business sense have won her many fans both at home and abroad.
Having appeared in more patent suits in Ireland’s Commercial Court than any other firm over the past three years, Whitney Moore has high-stakes litigation on lock. This year alone, it acted in infringement proceedings on behalf of Merck, Sharpe & Dohme, Edwards Lifesciences and Amgen; and secured a preliminary injunction for Novartis. Leading on all these briefs is Aoife Murphy, who relishes the cut and thrust of multi-jurisdictional disputes and is particularly at home in the life sciences, having litigated numerous biosimilar and medical device patents. All of the patent-related preliminary injunction applications on the Commercial Court list since 2018 bear her fingerprints. Working alongside her on the infringement matters is fellow life sciences specialist Robin Hayes, who also regularly steps in to advise on technology licensing issues.
“Clear, concise forward thinking and strategic advice and solutions” are the order of the day at William Fry. The “responsive, professional and reliable” IP team – the largest of its kind in an Irish full-service firm – consistently brings the heat in major cross-border patent disputes, particularly within the pharmaceutical and medical device sectors. Recent highlights include acting in SPC-related infringement proceedings on behalf of Genentech; defending Boehringer Ingleheim in revocation proceedings brought by Teva; and representing Viiv Healthcare Company in the High Court. All three cases were masterminded by Laura Scott, whose 360-degree understanding of the pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology spheres is complemented by regulatory and commercial insight. Back-up comes from IAM Patent 1000 newcomers Charleen O’Keeffe and Colette Brady, who both made partner in 2020 and are similarly well equipped to tackle IP and regulatory disputes at all stages of the pharmaceutical product lifecycle. On the transactional front, the names to know are David Cullen and Leo Moore, who have lately been coordinating licensing arrangements for headphone manufacturer Exertis and micro-LED leader X-Celeprint respectively. Cullen heads the technology group and knows his way around the online and digital markets. Moore receives high praise for his balanced approach to multi-jurisdictional deals: “Leo is good to work with and personable, but he means business and goes after solutions and results, which is what clients want from a legal adviser. He takes time to fully understand the issues, is very responsive and finds creative ways to make things happen.”
Other recommended expertsMatheson’s IP head Deirdre Kilroy is a patent licensing ace and a guiding light for businesses across the industry spectrum, from pharmaceuticals to data and technology. Her multi-disciplinary practice also sees her advise on confidentiality, trade secrets and data privacy issues. Engineering, materials science and computer technology are the specialist subjects of Denis McCarthy, a polished representative in oral proceedings at the EPO who has called MacLachlan & Donaldson home for more than 40 years. Based at Cruickshank, Donal O’Connor brings knowledge of mechanical processes, electronics and software to his European patent prosecution practice. He holds the distinction of being a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Biochemist Anne Ryan established the eponymous Anne Ryan & Co in 1989 and over the years has built a reputation for stellar patent prosecution, particularly within the life sciences field.
Individuals: litigation and transactions
- Ann Henry - Pinsent Masons
- Gerard Kelly - Mason Hayes & Curran LLP
- Patricia McGovern - DFMG Solicitors
- Leo Moore - William Fry
- Aoife Murphy - Whitney Moore
- Fiona O'Beirne - McCann FitzGerald
- Laura Scott - William Fry
- John Whelan - A&L Goodbody
- Colette Brady - William Fry
- David Cullen - William Fry
- Michael Finn - Pinsent Masons
- Robin Hayes - Whitney Moore
- Deirdre Kilroy - Matheson
- Brian McElligott - Mason Hayes & Curran LLP
- Shane O'Brien - McCann FitzGerald
- Charleen O’Keeffe - William Fry
- Alistair Payne - Acuatus
- Colin Sainsbury - ByrneWallace LLP
- Conor Boyce - Hanna Moore + Curley
- David Brophy - FRKelly
- Michael Lucey - PurdyLucey
- Barry Moore - Hanna Moore + Curley
- Barry Purdy - PurdyLucey
- Mark Carmody - PurdyLucey
- Olivia Catesby - Tomkins & Co
- Sean Cummings - Keltie LLP
- Donnacha Curley - Hanna Moore + Curley
- Christina Gates - Tomkins & Co
- Naoise Gordon - PurdyLucey
- Anna Hally - Hanna Moore + Curley
- Catherine Hanratty - Hanna Moore + Curley
- Anthony Kavanagh - Hanna Moore + Curley
- Donal Kelly - FRKelly
- Cathal Lane - Tomkins & Co
- Denis McCarthy - MacLachlan & Donaldson
- Maura O'Connell - FRKelly
- Donal O'Connor - Cruickshank
- Anne Ryan - Anne Ryan & Co
- Craig Thomson - HGF Ltd
- Marie Walsh - Hanna Moore + Curley