Partner, J A Kemp, London

I’ve always enjoyed learning about science and technology but I was not as good at the practical side as I was at the theory. Patent litigation allows me to play to my strengths in theory and avoid my weaknesses in the laboratory.

My training contract equipped me for working life much better than law school. Law school is rather theoretical and the concepts of a set of trial bundles, or a witness statement are rather abstract until you are actually in charge of preparing them.

Moving to China was a challenge. I joined a new firm in a new, rather alien country and had to navigate a completely unfamiliar civil law system. For example, Chinese IP enforcement can be handled by litigation or by complaint to the local intellectual property office, or the local administration of industry and commerce. These administrative bodies can deal with IP cases efficiently and fairly effectively, and there is no English equivalent. Administrative cases can be run independently of, or as a precursor to, or subsequent to civil litigation. It was confusing at first.

Modernisation has been the main driver of change to my job. In the IP sector, the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court  introduced a good alternative to the High Court, and the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court edge ever closer. Litigants will have lots of forums to choose from, with each offering something different.  

Having worked in both civil law and common law I have an insight into the unknowns of each system. A common law lawyer simply doesn’t know where the pitfalls in the civil law might be, and vice versa.

Something else I learnt is to speak intelligible English: cut out the idioms and long sentences and you find that meetings go much more smoothly.  

Three cases in the UK really stand out as highlights. Conor Medsystems Incorporated v Angiotech Pharmaceuticals (which went to the House of Lords) is the leading case on inventive step; Eli Lilly v Human Genome Sciences (Supreme Court) was the first case in the UK on the industrial applicability of DNA sequences; and Dr Reddy v Eli Lilly is the leading UK case on the thorny question of selection patents.  

In China, I gave a presentation to the Supreme Court of the People’s Republic on the topic of interim injunctions, together with Mr Justice Birss. The Supreme Court was drafting new guidance on interim injunctions in China and had asked Tom Duke, the UK’s IP attaché to China, to help them understand the UK approach.

Technology has brought with it many positive changes. Digitisation means that a litigation team can be much smaller than previously, with extra outside resources being called upon when needed. In the past a large team of associates might be needed to handle the disclosure review, the trial bundles and so on. These days so much is electronic that the big litigation teams are often no longer necessary.