Freshfields to merge IP and IT into corporate and disputes

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is set to amalgamate its IP and IT practice into its corporate and disputes groups in a bid to tackle market developments such as the impending launch of the Unified Patent Court (UPC).

Partners and associates will join the corporate or disputes practices on 1 May depending on their focus.

The firm said larger business groups were better prepared to deal with market changes such as the UPC, which is set to be introduced by 1 January 2014, the more challenging regulatory environment and the increasingly criticial nature of commercial contracts.

It also said it reflects the firm’s increased tendency to market its services through sector groups and global products rather than traditional practice areas.

The IP and IT practice currently houses 18 partners globally and roughly 65 associates. Cologne-based global IP and IT head Matthias Koch will still head the practice, which will function as a sub-group rather than a standalone global department.

A Freshfields spokesperson said in a statement: “By minimising the residual internal barriers to the cross-fertilisation and rapid dissemination of ideas that practice boundaries can create, we help stimulate further new and creative activity within IP and IT and across practice areas.

“Clients are not interested in the internal management functions and reporting lines. They’re interested in having our creative lawyers concentrating their productive efforts on them. This change facilitates that aim.”

Koch added: “Our IP/IT partners are already largely integrated into our corporate and dispute resolution practices as a result of the nature of their day-to-day work, so this is really about the way we organise ourselves internally.

“Yet it’s also about organising ourselves in a way that we feel will further enhance our IP/IT offering to our clients which is in growing demand, particularly around major IP/brand protection litigation cases, critical data protection regulatory issues, and around major contracts, including carve-outs, technology and complex outsourcing issues.”

The move leaves the firm with seven practice groups: antitrust, competition and trade; corporate; disputes; employment, pensions and benefits; finance; real estate; and tax. It also operates sector groups and earlier this year merged its leisure arm into real estate and TMT (18 January 2013).