United Kingdom: Scotland

The impact of Brexit on the Scottish patent scene is still yet to be fully ascertained, with issues such as the United Kingdom’s involvement in the forthcoming UPC and the medium-term effect of reduced business confidence remaining murky. However, filers are extremely positive about the government’s initiatives to stimulate patent applications – schemes such as Patent Box have played a pivotal role in making Scotland a haven for technology start-ups. To some extent, the IP market has more generally mirrored this start-up culture, with some excellent smaller firms springing up from the more established offerings on the market in recent years. Sector wise, Scotland’s traditional strongholds of oil and gas and mechanical patents continue to thrive, but there is also new growth in previously uncharted waters. In particular, the high-tech and software arenas, have been revitalised by developments in AI technology, which is set to have a wide-ranging effect across the Scottish economy for years to come.

Firms: litigation

  • Brodies LLP
  • Burness Paull LLP

Firms: prosecution

  • HGF Ltd 
  • Marks & Clerk
  • Murgitroyd
  • Hindles
  • Lawrie IP
  • lincoln ip limited
  • Scintilla IP

Firms: transactions

  • Brodies LLP
  • Burness Paull LLP
  • Dentons

Brodies LLP

Described by one peer as “the leader in Scotland and a go-to firm for litigation that people try to retain before their opponents do”, Brodies possesses an elite contentious and transactional offering in a market without many specialised IP courtroom outfits. Despite the 2018 retirement of “exceptional” IP stalwart Gill Grassie, the “experienced and effective” Brodies team has continued to surge forwards with some excellent lateral hires, namely Andrew McWhirter and Grant Strachan, and has maintained efforts to lead the market when it comes to wider IP issues; most notably, concerning Brexit’s impact on the Scottish patent market. Leading all-sector strategist and litigator Robert Buchan builds on his already stellar market reputation, he is “exceptional, and puts clients in incredibly strong counter-positions” in the courtroom. “Absolutely excellent – the best in Scotland”; “personable and a joy to work with”; and “commercial in his approach” are just some of the opinions that competitors and clients have of Buchan. “He really is the go-to specialist IP lawyer in Scotland, absolutely the first-choice individual to approach. His astute, consequential thinking provides invaluable insight, and he has been at the forefront of developing and implementing a multi-jurisdictional and multi-disciplinary strategy for us.” Brodies’ transactional side is also much-lauded, with the experienced triumvirate of Shona Tennant, Grant Campbell and Martin Sloan leading the charge. With particular experience working with universities, Tennant excels in knowledge-transfer licences and patent commercialisation and is described as being a “go-to” contact by one client. Campbell heads up the firm’s IP, technology and outsourcing team, expertly handling the transactional needs of a wide range of finance, engineering and aviation clients. Transactional specialist Sloan has likewise been kept busy by a plethora of confidential work, much of it of the utmost importance to the businesses that entrust him with their fortunes.

Burness Paull LLP

In the words of a competitor, Burness Paull is a “driving force behind landscape change and is instrumental in trying to gain Scotland a stronger voice on the European patent scene”. As the largest contentious IP practice in the country, with significant strength on the non-contentious side to boot, the firm has been extremely busy this year. It has been involved in a large proportion of all actions raised in the IP court, for clients such as AstraZeneca Group – which the firm represented against Teva in a high-profile action, securing a rare interim interdict in the process. At the heart of the litigation practice is Colin Hulme, an “exceptionally talented solicitor who is practical, commercially savvy and results-oriented”, he possesses “market-leading expertise” when it comes to fighting a patent through the courts. In a similar vein, his non-contentious colleague David Goodbrand is a failsafe choice for those seeking a genuine fintech expert to assist with IP commercialisation and strategy.

Dentons

Global legal leviathan Dentons is the world’s largest law firm by number of professionals, which helps to explain the extremely high regard in which it is held by rights holders looking to commercialise their intellectual property. With personal networks that span the furthest-flung reaches of the planet, the firm expanded into Scotland in 2017 by joining up with the well-known side, Maclay Murray & Spens, and has not looked back since. Outstanding transactional nous is the reason why clients flock to Dentons and this is embodied chiefly in the efforts of dynamic duo of Ross Nicol and Alison Bryce. Having spent time on secondment with an international pharmaceutical company, Nicol brings excellent in-house experience to the table; whereas Bryce delivers the goods in an assortment of key sectors, from food and drink to oil and gas.

HGF Ltd 

The narrative this year for HGF Ltd has been one of ebullient growth. As one competitor puts it: “The firm has been growing so much it’s running out of Britain.” HGF has been garnering plaudits for providing a client-focused, streamlined, cost-effective service that combines quality drafting with strong personal relationships. This “exponential” growth is not confined to Scotland; in April 2018, HGF opened an office in Westport, Ireland, which was shortly followed by a Munich office in July of the same year. Such positive growth is also reflected in HGF’s popularity as a magnet for established patent attorneys seeking a new environment in which to thrive. Recruited back in 2017, Andrew McGettrick has certainly thrived, by using his finely honed patent prosecution skills to carve out space for companies looking to operate in lucrative yet crowded landscapes. Managing partner Gary Wilson continues to drive the firm forwards, regularly representing major clients before the EPO with consummate skill. “Extremely knowledgeable, easy to work with and very responsive,” Wilson is the “go-to” Scottish connection for many of his European clients. His colleague Jamie Thomson also understands how to compile bulletproof patent applications; he has been plying his trade for clients such as Devro Plc, the world’s leading collagen manufacturer. This year is expected to be a bright one at HGF, with the “proactive, prompt and responsive” firm looking to continue its gathering momentum.

Hindles

Edinburgh-based patent attorneys Hindles has long been renowned to be an unusually technically astute firm, which places strong emphasis on attracting and training people with elite academic backgrounds. Forward-thinking with a commitment to combining meticulous quality with an unwavering commercial focus, as one competitor espouses: “Hindles is a leading patent boutique with impressive scientific and technical staff.” The main man Alistair Hindle ably walks such a line; for one client he has “established a track record of getting the balance right between breadth of claim and limitation and navigating prior art”. He is also able to skilfully manage a complex roster of clients and applications, giving each his undivided attention before moving on to the next, as one respondent summarises, “he is a very clever guy indeed”. Hindle’s partner Robert Gregory also has plenty of experience in handling patent applications before the UK and EU authorities, defending them robustly when the need arises. As one interviewee rhapsodises: “There are not enough EPO practitioners like Robert, who is both an expert in the law and a highly skilled strategist. I rely on him to prosecute my toughest and most problematic cases.” Although Hindles remains medium-sized by design and eager not to dilute the quality of its services, intelligent growth is on the agenda; the universities and start-ups so well-served by the firm in Scotland can now access their services in Liverpool, where the firm opened an office in September 2018.

Lawrie IP

“A growing practice in Scotland with impressive credentials on the patent side,” Lawrie IP is an outfit with one eye fixed firmly on the future. The outfit has mechanisms in place to streamline its procedures, bolster its cybersecurity and consider client feedback seriously – a smart move in a market as competitive as Scotland’s. Such systems are ultimately in place to ensure that Lawrie’s relentless focus on its clients’ commercial strategy can continue to set it apart from competitors, a strategy that, judging by client willingness to provide glowing feedback, is paying dividends. As one happy customer enthuses: “Lawrie IP have taken the time to understand us and our needs. They have always been diligent and thorough – and, most importantly, have found the fine line between giving strong, clear advice but not making the decisions for us.” Running the show is the “invaluable” founder Donald Lawrie, whose agility in drafting and commercialising a range of technologies including oil and gas, food and renewable energy encapsulates the firm’s broad and pragmatic outlook. Clients are generous in their praise for his work, with one describing it as “a very bespoke, thorough operation which has formed the entire basis for our IP strategy”. Lawrie’s filing colleague Craig Hutchison is likewise adored by clients for both his “friendly and commercial” manner and his technical acumen when it comes to drafting critical patents in the mechanical engineering and physics fields. Former Danish patent examiner Anders Jensen’s practice also revolves around watertight drafting, this time with an emphasis on software and web-based technology. In the words of another interviewee: “Anders distinguishes himself by having a practical, pragmatic, business-focused view of how to use intellectual property as a tool to create value, rather than simply chasing hourly charges.”

lincoln ip limited

Based in Aberdeen, at the epicentre of the bustling Scottish oil and gas scene, lincoln ip has established a stellar reputation for itself when it comes to work in the energy industry. Led by the trailblazing Matthew Lincoln, who is described as “a leader in the Aberdeen market” who dispenses “sound technical and commercial advice”, the firm has carved out a lucrative niche in the energy and mechanical sectors. As a former examiner in the UK Intellectual Property Office, Lincoln knows how to file an impervious patent application and to future-proof it against possible attack when it is granted – a skill he leverages to great effect at the helm of his own firm.

Marks & Clerk

Despite its considerable size, Marks & Clerk remains among the key movers and shakers of the Scottish IP scene. With an emphasis on maintaining relationships, especially in the technology and academic worlds, the firm is acutely aware of the need to invest in training its patent attorneys rigorously. It also makes a point of meeting clients face-to-face and firmly believes that a personal touch makes all the difference. Beyond the United Kingdom, the firm has recently strengthened its international footprint by expanding into Canada; a move sure to pique the interest of global players looking to enforce their IP rights on both sides of the pond. Based in the Glasgow office, Richard Gibbs and Graham McGlashan are magnets for biotech and electronics and energy companies respectively. Both can deal with whatever clients throw at them on a technical level and offer sterling advice to those lucky enough to procure their services. Over in the Aberdeen office, master strategist Andrew Docherty dispenses shrewd advice drawing on his “impressive experience in oil and gas technology-related patents”, providing mechanical clients – including Interventek and Well Sense Technology Ltd – with well-lit pathways towards protecting and monetising their innovative patents. Paul Chapman, a chartered UK and European patent attorney with 20 years of experience in intellectual property, is known for his life sciences proficiency; once a company comes to him for advice, they tend not to want to go elsewhere.

Murgitroyd

A venerated name in Scottish intellectual property, Murgitroyd is a firm that covers any and all European patent matters. In the words of one competitor, it is a “patent prosecution powerhouse, with high professional standards and strong processes”, which it combines with “impressive credentials in the oil and gas sector”. Possessing a relatively unusual corporate structure as a publicly traded company, Murgitroyd thinks differently – a trait that marks it out as being “innovative and dynamic” in the context of the Scottish market. “Graham Murnane is great at oppositions, especially with peevish European examiners”; for intractable patent problems at the EPO, he is the man to call for multinationals seeking the highest-calibre representation north of the border.

Scintilla IP

New kid on the block Scintilla IP is a prosecution firm with a laser-sharp focus on the technical growth areas of the future – for electronics, software, the Internet of Things, cybersecurity and related fields, its name is a solid guarantee of quality. A team culture built on honesty, pragmatism and technical know-how has already won Scintilla a healthy stable of clients, many of whom are university spin-offs looking to draft and secure unimpeachable patents. The driving force of the practice is founder Peter McBride, whose “calm and measured manner” never fails to reassure clients who rely on him for indispensable guidance when negotiating the obstacles inherent in international patent filing. “He is amiable, always open to hearing a range of views on an issue, adaptable and engaging. All around, he’s a very nice guy and a safe and knowledgeable pair of hands.” As one client rhapsodises: “Peter’s evident expertise and genuine demeanour go well alongside his strong draft responses and helpful comments on documents – and Scintilla, as a team, have proven themselves to be successful, flexible and helpful”.

Other recommended experts

A Scottish patent list would not be complete without Simon Black, who heads his “niche but growing patent practice” Black and Associates, which is known for its meticulous drafting across a broad spectrum of technical areas. An ever-present fixture in the black books of many companies looking for support in their patent transactions, Shepherd and Wedderburn’s Joanna Boag-Thomson combines her booming practice with postgraduate-level teaching on patents. With his encyclopaedic knowledge of the pitfalls that can plague a poorly crafted patent application, Andy Harris of MBM Commercial serves up canny strategic advice that can save discerning clients time and money. Lauded for providing “excellent commercially related IP advice to small and medium-sized enterprises and university spin-offs”, Alistair Lang of Thorntons Law can always be relied on to fully evaluate his clients’ commercial objectives before deciding on an appropriate course of action.

Individuals: litigation

  • Robert Buchan - Brodies LLP
  • Colin Hulme - Burness Paull LLP

Individuals: prosecution

  • Paul Chapman - Marks & Clerk
  • Andrew Docherty - Marks & Clerk
  • Richard Gibbs - Marks & Clerk
  • Robert Gregory - Hindles
  • Alistair Hindle - Hindles
  • Gary Wilson - HGF Ltd
  • Simon Black - Black and Associates
  • Craig Hutchison - Lawrie IP
  • Anders Jensen - Lawrie IP
  • Matthew Lincoln - lincoln ip limited
  • Peter McBride - Scintilla IP
  • Andrew McGettrick - HGF Ltd
  • Graham McGlashan - Marks & Clerk
  • Graham Murnane - Murgitroyd
  • Jamie Thomson - HGF Ltd

Individuals: transactions

  • Joanna Boag-Thomson - Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP
  • Alison Bryce - Dentons
  • Grant S Campbell - Brodies LLP
  • David Goodbrand - Burness Paull LLP
  • Andy Harris - MBM Commercial
  • Alistair Lang - Thorntons Law
  • Donald Lawrie - Lawrie IP
  • Ross Nicol - Dentons
  • Martin Sloan - Brodies LLP
  • Shona Tennant - Brodies LLP