Monday, 23 February 2009

How to spot an IP blagger at 30 paces.

Earlier today I warned a public access client that he would need a solicitor as well as a barrister and advised him to find one who specializes in intellectual property.    With unusual astuteness, the client replied that every law firm of any size in his town claims to practise IP and he was pretty sure that that could not be the case.   

I get a pretty good idea by asking the following questions.    Has the firm been instructed in any reported IP cases?   Do they subscribe to the FSRs (Fleet Street Reports) or RPC (Reports of Patent Cases)? Are they in the IPLA?  

That's all very well for me but it doesn't help a member of the public. Then a simple two point test occurred to me:
  1. Ask him to read the word "patent".   If he pronounces it "pay tent" he is probably not an IP specialist.
  2. Ask him to spell "trade mark".    If he spells trade mark as one word he certainly isn't. Unless, of course, he is an American.   Trade mark is spelt as one word in transatlantic patois.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Legal Week Wiki: Cobbetts

Barristers are always very find of the law firm that sent them their first brief and in my case it was Cobbetts.  When I was Robert Reid's pupil in 9 Old Square they instructed me to traipse down to Dartford County Court to take the surrender from Mrs. Brown on behalf of Williams & Glyns Bank.   That case went on to the House of Lords as Williams & Glyn's Bank v Boland [1981] AC 487 though, alas, not with me in it.

I was very interested to read Cobbetts's profile in Legal Week Wiki. Being an IP lawyer I looked to see who was still there. They had a very good team there once with people like Susan Hall, Graham WoodLucas Bateman, Michael Sandys, Steve Kuncewicz and Sonia Luthra. Save for Susan, all of them have moved on and I know that at le some of them are doing very well indeed because I still see them regularly.

None of this is mentioned in the Wiki. Instead the post concentrates on Cobbetts' expertise in property:

"The traditional bedrock of Cobbetts’ practice was real estate, where the firm would be viewed as one of the leading practices in the northwest and in which the firm can now claim to have a credible national practice that can duke it out with larger rivals like Eversheds and Wragge & Co. Key partners include Stephen Benson on the commercial side and litigators Alan Walker and Peter Stone.
The firm’s reach in real estate also extends to a highly-rated social housing practice, which was substantially upgraded via its Birmingham and Leeds mergers. Key lawyers in the sector include Philip Heath, Andy Ballard and Colin Birtwistle.
The firm also has well established practices in discreet areas such as licensing, charities and debt recovery. However, as a full-service outfit, Cobbetts has yet to build the kind of practice that can really compete with the largest national firms in the key commercial disciplines."
Well some of that assessment is true.   I know that Peter Stone is good because I instructed him and he did an excellent job for me. So, too, is Henry Stone (not mentioned above but a good TCC litigator) who sent me my first brief and then instructed me in a computer supply dispute on the 20th anniversary. But I think overall that that comment is a little unfair. There is more to Cobbetts than conveyancing and despite losing some good people there is still a lot of talent left.