Field Fisher Waterhouse has entered into a unique relationship with attorneys Mathys & Squire to offer the patent expertise of both firms under one virtual roof.
Branded as Isosceles, the initiative has been pioneered with clients such as Malaysian oil company Petronas and sports equipment manufacturer Dunlop. The client will have an integrated service providing scientific and legal advice from a single point of contact. The firms claim the arrangement will help avoid the duplication clients sometimes face when instructing two completely separate firms.
But although Mathys will act as Field Fisher's sole patent agent, as it has for more than five years, it will continue to work with other law firms. It will also bill separately after first consulting with Field Fisher on the separate fees.
The idea came from the US model of patent attorneys and intellectual property lawyers working in tandem, but UK Law Society rules have prevented full integration.
Stephenson Harwood and DLA are examples of failed marriages between patent attorneys and law firms. In 2001 Stephenson Harwood's patents team moved to Kilburn & Strode and DLA sold its patents unit to Harrison Goddard Foote.
John Olsen, chairman of Isosceles and a partner at Field Fisher, said: "The concept of importing patent agents into a law firm (or vice-versa) has a fatal flaw - they can never be full partners. No self-respecting professional wants to be an employee forever."