A POSSIBLE client conflict within Allens Arthur Robinson’s (AAR) patent and trademark arm has led to the release of six team members, including partners Wayne McMaster and Robert Cooper, to top-tier rival Mallesons Stephen Jaques.
The unusual circumstances underlying the split surround work performed by the Melbourne-based team for pharmaceutical giant Mayne.
Qualified as a lawyer, patent and trade mark attorney, McMaster acted for the generic company prior to his 1999 switch to Allens, which also maintained deep relationships with a number of originator clients.
Generic and originator companies are strong competitors and regularly face off in the IP arena.
It is understood that McMaster’s relationship with Mayne was of late causing tension among Allens’ long-standing originator stable.
“Any conflicts between the two had been successfully managed, but it became increasingly clear that there was a real potential for conflict and therefore, for professional and ethical reasons, we decided that we could not represent particular types of generic companies that challenge pharmaceutical inventions of our originator clients,” an Allens spokesperson said.
The sextet, “effectively a core team for [Mayne] within a team”, were then released as a matter of course when Allens decided to stand by its originator clients, some of whom had used the firm for decades.
“Decisions such as these are never easy, but as we had longer standing relationships with those originator companies, those were better established,” the spokesperson added.
With Mallesons already performing a key amount of work for Mayne, the released group’s destination was made clearer.
McMaster, whose team specialises in bioscience and pharmaceuticals, added that the group wanted to remain in “the high profile patent litigation drug area”. As such, peeling off alone was not a viable option.
“In patent litigation you need significant resources behind you. The document management demands are huge and need the backing of a large firm,” he said.
The new additions boost Mallesons’ IP partnership ranks in Melbourne from three to five. Further depth is also provided by senior associates Duncan Bucknell and Shyama Jayaswal, patents counsel Carolyn Rolls and senior patents legal executive Debra Barnes. Senior Mallesons IP partners Cheng Lim and Maurice Gonsalves said that while the bulk lateral hire was “unusual for a firm like ours”, they were correspondingly excited by the prospect of working side-by-side with the new recruits.
Despite having the large and swift critical weight gain, Mallesons will continue to approach its patent and trade mark firms from within. Unlike top-tier counterparts Freehills, Blake Dawson Waldron and AAR, Mallesons harbours no immediate intentions to create a “bolt on” patent arm.
Both McMaster and Cooper, an IP litigator who spent five years in the UK with Bird & Bird, prefer an “integrated” approach, which sees attorneys and lawyers working in close physical proximity under the same practice group.
Cooper acknowledged that there was potential for the two breeds to clash and felt that a seamless strategy was the way to go.
Allens concluded by saying it “regretted the outcome”. However, the firm did not view the complicit sequence of events as a learning curve for future dealings in the patent and trade mark arena.
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