Allen & Overy preps for major US IP expansion

Allen & Overy (A&O) is searching for US IP litigation capability amid a worldwide strategy revamp, with expansion plans already taking place in London and Germany.


The firm, which currently has no US IP litigation partners, has left its options open on whether it will seek a merger with a US IP litigation boutique or bolt on a team from a US firm.

“We are embarking on a strategic plan to significantly grow patent litigation here in the UK and in Germany and potentially further afield as well,” IP litigation practice head Nicola Dagg told The Lawyer.

The firm’s renewed investment was triggered by a high demand in life sciences for patent litigation over the past four to five years, Dagg said. The team in London works on the biggest high profile cases in the marketplace, she claimed, but added the practice needs “more breadth and depth”.

“It makes complete sense for us to invest in IP litigation in the US,” Dagg said. “A lot of our very treasured life sciences clients are US corporates. At the moment there is no [Allen & Overy] IP litigation in the US, so there is a chance for us to mould it in terms of geographical spread.”

This expansion “is not something you can do in [lateral hires of] ones and twos” Dagg claimed.

At the moment, the IP litigation practice handles a combination of clientwork for Pfizer, Allergan and Regeneron, as well as a number of TMT companies. The strategic goal is to create  a transatlantic IP litigation capability that will allow the firm to “get more work from the client base”.

A&O made two further hires from Simmons & Simmons in London, as part of its strategy to boost its international IP practice on Friday morning (23 September).

Simmons partners Mark Heaney and David Stone followed Simmons IP head Marc Döring and fellow partner Marjan Noor who were hired earlier this year. Dagg considers the moves to be a “major bite of the strategy and investment” at the firm.

Dagg said: “Our outside investment will be coming to its natural conclusion over the next couple of months.”

A&O’s German IP litigation team, which currently made up of two partners, is also a target for expansion to increase its bench strength in the market and improve the team’s cross-border litigation capability. The firm has not yet given indications of a headcount target.

“Germany is also a very big market for IP litigation and in particular patent litigation. At the moment, the firm runs parallel cases in the UK patent court and the German court,” Dagg explained.

“If we are running a case in parallel we try to be very flexible in moving resources around and know-how around. We will share all of that with our counterparts in France or Germany. We move our associates around so that our clients aren’t paying twice.

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