Canada’s Gowlings loses London IP team to US firm Pillsbury

Canadian firm Gowlings has lost a two-partner IP team to the City office of US firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. 

It is not clear when London-based IP lawyers James Tumbridge and Paul Harris are to officially join the firm, however the pair have already been removed from Gowlings’ website.

It is understood that there are now no IP lawyers left in Gowling’s nine-partner London office, with the pair joining Pillsbury alongside IP associates Katerina Mikheev and Robert Peake. Gowlings could not be reached for comment, so it is not yet known if they are replacing the team.

Harris, a former Speechly Bircham partner, advised New York-based yoghurt company Chobani during a major IP battle with the makers of Total Greek Yoghurt, Fage UK, in the High Court earlier this year (3 April 2013). According to the claimant, only yoghurt that had been made in Greece could accurately be defined as Greek yoghurt.

The move will no doubt come as a blow to Gowlings’ global push. The firm used a partners conference in Toronto last October as an opportunity to prepare its partners for life at a global business (4 February 2013). Gowlings chair and chief executive officer Scott Jolliffe told The Lawyer he was interested in exploring the option of a merger but that nothing was imminent.

The firm has had an office in London since 2008, and went on a recruitment drive in the years that followed. In 2011, for example, the City base hired a general counsel from British energy (1 October 2010), Unilever (8 April 2011), a former Norton Rose partner (6 October 2011) and a partner from Simmons & Simmons (10 November 2010).

Pillsbury’s IP head Jack Barufka said: “More and more of the firm’s IP clients are becoming involved in international disputes with European aspects. The addition of James and Paul will help us meet the needs of our clients.”