8 Jan

Anita Varma

As chair of White & Case’s Global IP practice group, what are the key factors to consider when leading a top-class full-service IP team?

There are many factors to consider when leading a full-service global IP practice, but the following particularly stand out:

  • Strategy – it is crucial to have a strategy and goals. White & Case works hard to ensure that each practice and industry sector works towards common objectives, as well as practice-specific goals, in order to ensure top client service. We also work on delivery and innovative initiatives that drive the firm forward across the board.
  • Effective communication – this is always key, but particularly so during a worldwide pandemic. We have made exceptional efforts to ensure that our practice stays connected through global practice meetings, as well as frequent virtual client events. Our partners hold check-ins with groups of associates to ensure that everyone has the resources and support that they need. Our firm’s technology services group has done a phenomenal job in helping us to stay connected within the firm and with our clients.
  • Adaptability – adaptation has been necessary throughout 2020 and our IP practice has been no exception. There have been global challenges to overcome in order for us be able to meet client needs virtually while also ensuring the wellbeing of our practice members and their families.

In short, it is important to have a defined strategy, to communicate that strategy effectively and to be flexible enough to adapt and to change as circumstances demand. Above all, to build an environment that nurtures excellence and teamwork.

Life sciences companies derive a huge amount of value from their intellectual property. How do you manage expectations with clients when it comes to high-stakes litigation and key deals?

A large part of managing expectations for life sciences clients is advance preparation. Whether working in pharmaceuticals, biosimilars or medical devices, clients must often plan years ahead for regulatory and IP issues. We counsel our clients in both litigation and corporate strategies well in advance, using our firm’s combined resources across those legal specialties to ensure a comprehensive plan for asserting or defending against IP claims.

What metrics do you use to measure the success of an IP strategy?

Repeat business is the best indication of a successful strategy. We also measure success based on client satisfaction with our advice and support, which is often not easy to quantify. Other objective client metrics include revenues and litigation outcomes.

What are the most common mistakes that parties make during US post-grant proceedings?

One common mistake is to misunderstand the audience. PTAB practitioners must adjust to arguing before a panel of experienced patent practitioners, not to a jury or generalist judge. Accordingly, some types of arguments or presentation styles are less effective before the board. We have also seen some practitioners continue to use experts to parrot attorney arguments without sufficient explanation, which the PTAB will reject.

What are the biggest changes to the biosimilars landscape that you would like to see – and how likely do you think they are to happen?

The biosimilars patent litigation landscape is still in its infancy. To date, only 28 biosimilar products have been approved in the United States, with the majority of these having been approved in the last two years. Most litigations in the space have resulted in settlement agreements and – unlike Hatch-Waxman litigations – there is as yet no mature body of law. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration provided interchangeability standards in 2019, which we hope will lead to interchangeable biosimilar products (ie, small molecule drugs) that can be substituted by pharmacies. Given the lack of maturity of the field, it is difficult to derive any conclusions as to what changes might be helpful to litigants.

Anita Varma

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Anita Varma is chair of White & Case’s global IP practice group and is based at the firm’s Boston office, with a dual practice in London. She is qualified to practice before the USPTO and the EPO. Ms Varma provides strategic patent counselling to life sciences industry companies, guiding them through every stage of a product’s lifecycle, as well as obtaining enforceable claims and supporting them in post-grant proceedings.

Click here to see her IAM 300 2020 profile.