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Leading IP partner Barbara Cookson has quit Nabarro Nathanson, causing the firm to dump its patent prosecution practice.
Nabarros' decision to drop its patent prosecution practice leaves Olswang as the only major UK firm with a patent filing and prosecution capability.
Law Society rules currently prohibit lawyers and patent attorneys operating in partnership. However, the world's largest patent and trademark attorneys Marks & Clerk last year brought associated law firm Blair & Co under its banner.
Olswang launched its patent filing practice five years ago and boosted it with three attorneys in April this year.
Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) managed to skip around the Law Society's rules by launching a partnership with Mathys & Squire in 2003.
Nabarros joins Stephenson Harwood and DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary as examples of failed marriages between patent attorneys and law firms. In 2001, Stephenson Harwood's patents team moved to Kilburn & Strode and DLA Piper sold its patents unit to Harrison Goddard Foote.
Cookson is a qualified patent agent and a solicitor. She joined Nabarros in May 2000 following a bitter fight with FFW over restrictive covenants. She could not be reached for comment, but it is understood that she is likely to set up on her own.
Nabarros managing partner Nicole Paradise said: "We wish her well in her new role."