The Intellectual Property Bar Association (Patent Bar Association until 1995) was founded in the early 1970s to provide a voice for barristers specialising in intellectual property work.
Originally, patents work predominated, which has now expanded to cover copyright, trademarks, genetic engineering and computers.
The 70-plus members of the association (20 of whom are silks) are based predominantly in London, with a few in Manchester. Membership is likely to continue growing due to the increased investment in new technology, research and development.
Past chairmen have included Robin Jacob and Hugh Laddie, who are now on the bench. The current incumbent is Simon Thorley QC, who has held the post for two years.
Thorley says that one of the association's achievements has been "its work towards streamlining High Court patent litigation" to make it more "user-friendly" both for UK-based parties and foreign corporations from other jurisdictions.
"This means that a patent action can be tried in about 12 months at considerably less cost than before and without losing the benefit of the English system, such as cross-examination." He singles out Robin Jacob's work as past chair in this area.
The association is also involved in putting forward concrete proposals on the provisions in the green paper from Brussels on a central patent system.
It also organises pupillages in patent and IP practice and post-qualification vocational training.
On the national level, Thorley adds that "with Mr Justice Jacob also sitting on the other circuits, it is likely intellectual property cases will go to centres such as Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff.
"Practitioners in this area now have two judges trained in IP, as well as Lord Justice Aldous in the Court of Appeal. This means that we can offer specialist judges who fully comprehend the technology."