Watts, a well-known patent litigator, was brought in by Avril Martindale, the joint global practice leader of Freshfields' IP/IT group, who was also a lateral hire from Bristows.
Martindale said: “We haven't made a lateral hire in this group since 1999 and it underlines the importance the firm places on a strong IP/IT group going forward.”
She added: “Our only other patent litigation partner in the UK, Chris Forsyth, needed more partner support in London to push forward our international practice.” Forsyth also learned his trade at Bristows, although he moved over as an associate during the 1990s.
There are plans to centralise the EC patent litigation system with a Luxembourg-based court, but Watts said the UK would remain a key jurisdiction.
He said: “A European Patent Court would be an enormous opportunity for everyone, but particularly firms such as Freshfields, which can pick up litigation clients from all over the EU.”
Watts specialised in electronics patents at Bristows and is dual-qualified as a chartered engineer. He represented Sony on its electronic publishing case against Tesco and has also acted for Philips Electronics, Ericsson and Texas Instruments.
Bristows partner Philip Westmacott said: “On a personal level, we are very sorry to lose Justin.”