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Bristows LLP
No. of offices 1
No. of lawyers 40 Partners, 4 Of Counsel, 88 Associates, 2 PSLs, 19 Trainees, 5 Trade Mark Attorneys and 20 Paralegals (as of February 2017)
Major practice areas Intellectual property, Information technology, Corporate & financing, Commercial and technology disputes, Real estate, Regulatory, Competition & EU, Media & marketing, Employment and Tax
Date founded 1837
Company type LLP

Bristows is a full-service commercial, London-based law firm, particularly known for its technology and intellectual property work.[1]

In January 2008, the firm relocated from Lincoln's Inn Fields to new City offices on the first two floors of 100 Victoria Embankment, London (also known as Unilever House).

Areas of work[edit]

Bristows specialises in the following areas:


Bristows was founded in 1837 by Robert Wilson at 1, Copthall Buildings in the City of London.[2][3] One of Robert's first pieces of work related to the patenting of the first practical electrical telegraph, then particularly in demand for its application to railways. Wilson also advised a Captain Crauford in relation to his patent “for preserving from rust” and the electronic engineer Sir Charles Wheatstone on the wheatstone bridge circuit.[4]

In 1849, Ebenezer Bristows joined the firm. Ebenezer was a member of the Law Society Council from 1873 until 1908, and President of the Law Society of England and Wales for the year 1883 to 1884.[5] It was during this year that the first UK Patent Act arrived, which laid the basis for patent law and practice as it exists today.

During the 19th century, the firm acted for the Royal Mail Steam Packet, largely on litigation relating to accidents at sea. Other clients in the late 19th century include the Electric Telephone Company, Steam Plough Patents, the Bread Patents Company, the Celluloid Manufacturing Company and the Tigris & Euphrates Steam Navigation Company.[6]

Early 1900s[edit]

The firm's name was changed to Bristows, Cooke and Carpmael in 1906, reflecting the names of the then partners.

Henry Cooke was heavily involved in patenting work, and was a member of the committee whose advice led to the Patents Act 1919. Alfred Carpmael, was a prominent patent agent of his time, and the author of the first handbook on 'Patent Laws of the World.[7]

Around the time of World War I, the firm acted in patent litigation regarding electric light bulbs. It related to an invention by the General Electric Company of the USA that involved using filament from tungsten.[8]


In the 1930s, the firm was involved in drafting agreements for the laying of the first transatlantic telephone cable.[9]

Bristows began to act for The Royal Society in the 1940s. By that time, other clients in the field of learned societies and institutions include the Royal Society of the Arts, Institution of Chemical Engineers, Institution of Civil Engineers, Institution of Electrical Engineers and Institution of Mechanical Engineers.[10]

In the 1950s, to avoid a notoriously unpredictable English judge, the firm took the unusual move of bringing a patent case in Scotland, despite the lack of experience of patent litigation there. The move, for a textile machinery manufacturer, was successful,[11] It was closely followed by another similar case on behalf of the Jockey Company of Chicago over its invention, Y-fronts, which were being manufactured under licence in Scotland.

Late 20th century[edit]

In the 1960s, Bristows was involved in a patent case on the jet engine, Renee Anxionnaz and Societe Rateau v Rolls Royce, De Havillands and the Ministry of Aviation, .[12] Sir Frank Whittle the inventor of the jet engine, was the expert for Bristows and the trial lasted about five weeks.

In the 1980s Bristows handled the first ever UK biotechnology case representing Genentech in defending its patent for recombinant tPA (used in treating thrombosis).[13]

The continuing expansion of the firm in the 1970s, and the landlords' decision to redevelop 1 Copthall Buildings, led to a move to Lincoln's Inn Fields.

In 1997 the firm advises on a joint venture between BSkyB, British Telecom, HSBC and Matsushita (now Panasonic) to create Open, the world's first digital interactive television service on Sky.[14]

In 1998, the firm shortened its name from Bristows Cooke & Carpmael to Bristows.


In 2002 Bristows represented Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) in an action brought against “chipping” of PlayStation games consoles,[15] and, following a six-year case against the Metropolitan Police, secured the image rights to Doctor Who's TARDIS for the BBC.[16]

In 2003, the firm acted for Bayer AG on the £25 million financing aspects of its exclusive marketing agreement with GW Pharmaceuticals plc relating to the marketing of GW's pioneering cannabis-based medicine Sativex®.[17] In the same year, the firm acted for VIA Technologies in a hard-fought competition law battle between leading chip producer Intel and its smaller competitor, VIA Technologies. In this case, the Court of Appeal decided that VIA Technologies can bring Intel to trial, and alleged that Intel's behaviour is anti-competitive, that the way Intel uses its huge patent portfolio seriously harms smaller rivals, and that Intel is driving rivals out of business and harming consumers.[18]

In 2007, Bristows acted for the members of the 1980s band Frankie Goes to Hollywood who achieved victory in their dispute with former lead singer, Holly Johnson, over the trademark rights to the band's name.[19]

The firm relocated from Lincoln's Inn Fields to new City offices at Unilever House in 2008. Also, in this year, the firm acted in the first modern case addressing the principles involved in calculating the compensation payable under a cross-undertaking where the patentee obtained an interim injunction but subsequently lost at trial[20] The firm also acted for Smith and Nephew in a patent action before the UK Court of Appeal. In an unprecedented move, the trial of the action, which started in December 2008, took only seven months from commencement to Judgment by the Court of Appeal.[21]

Since 2009 Bristows has been advising SAS Institute Inc. on its ongoing litigation with World Programming Limited,[22] a breach of licence and copyright infringement case which raises a number of fundamental issues regarding the scope of protection for computer software in Europe. The English High Court has referred nine questions of law arising from Articles 1(2) and 5(3) of the Software Directive in the case to the European Court of Justice for guidance. The decision of the European Court of Justice (expected mid-2012) is keenly awaited by those in the industry and the legal sector.

In 2009, the firm acted for the defendants in the first UK case where compensation has been awarded to an employee inventor.[23] In 2010, Bristows won TMT team of the year at The Lawyer Awards 2010 for its work on the Smith and Nephew litigation mentioned above, which colloquially became known as "The Rocket Docket" for its speed from commencement to judgment.[24] The firm also won the UK Patent Contentious Award 2010 at the Managing Intellectual Property Global Awards.[25]

In 2011, the firm was recognised as a 'First Class' company to work for by Best Companies, a research group responsible for compiling the Sunday Times 'Best Companies to Work For' list.[26] In the same year, the firm advised Star Navigation Systems on a marketing/commercialisation agreement with an EADS/Airbus affiliate relating to a new form of "black box" technology for aircraft, which transmits real-time data to ground stations via satellites. Not only does this technology allow aircraft faults and aviation incidents to be investigated more quickly but also provides other benefits, such as improved scheduling for vital repairs and better aircraft route planning and fuel efficiency.[27]

In 2011, the firm also achieved a groundbreaking win for IPCom in a telecoms patent action before the UK High Court. IPCom was sued by Nokia in April 2010 for revocation of a patent relating to a mechanism for controlling access to the random access channel, a channel used by mobile devices when accessing the mobile telephone network. IPCom countersued for infringement of the patent in June 2010 by each of Nokia’s UMTS-enabled devices (UMTS is the mobile telephone standard under which the UK 3G network and UK 3G mobile devices operate). The Court upheld IPCom’s patent as valid and infringed (subject to a minor amendment to the exact form of its claims).[28]

Bristows advises L'Oreal in its ongoing trade mark infringement case against eBay. In 2011 L'Oreal won an ECJ trade mark ruling against eBay, which clarified the legal position of e-commerce platforms offering counterfeit items under famous brand names [1].

The firm was recognised as a Top 30 Employer for Working Families in 2011, ranking amongst companies such as Accenture, Barclays Bank, and KPMG. Criteria for the benchmarking survey included the integration of flexible working into firm strategy and culture, policy and consistent practices. Bristows was selected based on the firm’s policies on maternity, paternity, parental leave and flexible working and its statistics on the number of flexible workers by employee group including partners, associates and business services.[29]

Bristows acted pro-bono to advise Complete Pleasure Boats on its winning bid to operate the river boat service between Putney and Blackfriars, starting 3 January 2012 and initially operating for a trial period of 6 months.[30]

Bristows has been representing Samsung in the UK aspects of its patent dispute with Apple relating to smartphone and tablet technologies and involving parallel proceedings in ten jurisdictions.[31]

In 2012 Bristows celebrated its 175 anniversary with a series of events and the production of a timeline looking back on it history (see:

In 2012 Bristows acted for Cadbury on ambush marketing strategies for the London 2012 Olympics and advised Guardian News and Media on social media product launches.[32]

On 26 June 2012 Bristows was awarded 3rd place in the category of UK Law Firm of the Year at The Lawyer Awards.[33]

In September 2012 Bristows was ranked in the top 3 small family-friendly companies in The 2012 Top Employers for Working Families, a survey by Working Families in partnership with the Institute for Employment Studies.[34]

In October 2012 the Financial Times named Bristows as one of the 'Most Innovative Law Firms in Client Service. Bristows was commended for its Global command and control system for the defence of patent rights in the pharmaceutical sector."[35]

In February 2013 Bristows launched a microsite dedicated to reporting and commenting on the latest news on the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court (UPC). The UPC website can be found at:

In April 2013 Bristows was awarded Best Law Firm (Patent Contentious UK) in respect of its work for Samsung, IP Com, Novartis, AstraZeneca and Smith & Nephew at the Managing IP Global Awards.[36]

In November 2013 the UK's Court of Appeal handed down a judgment in the case of IPCom v HTC that is significant for the enforcement of patents in the UK. Bristows acted for the successful claimant, IPCom GmbH & Co KG, and the case concerned whether national courts should proceed with a patent dispute where the validity of the same patent is also being considered at the European Patent Office (“EPO”). The Court of Appeal looked again at the guidelines which courts should use in exercising their discretion in such cases. Lord Justice Floyd concluded that, given the tensions inherent in the European patent system, judges should maintain their ability to exercise a discretion to progress or stay a case depending upon its facts. One factor in favour of a stay would be if the patentee were likely to irrevocably gain some compensation from the defendant which might later be found to have been wrongly bestowed. If the patentee is prepared to give an undertaking to return any such money, however, then allowing the proceedings to progress in parallel could achieve at least some certainty as between the parties in a sensible timescale.[37]

In December 2013 Bristows relaunched its popular TMT law newsletter as an interactive microsite comprising an array of videos and information on a wide range of legal issues from cloud computing advice and mobile apps advice, to contracts for start-ups and other online issues. The new Cookie Jar microsite can be found at:

In December 2013 the Patents Court handed down its judgment in Smith & Nephew v ConvTec No. 2.[38] Bristows acted for the successful claimant, Smith & Nephew in the most recent instalment of litigation involving ConvaTec’s patent for silverised wound dressings (silver being known for its healing properties).

In March 2014 Bristows’ Competition and EU team launched a competition blog, The CLIP Board, as a means of sharing views on developments in competition and IP law as they unfold. The blog can be found at:

In October 2014 Bristows was named TMT law firm of the year at the Legal 500 Awards [39]

In January 2015 Street Map v Google and Foundem v Google were identified by the Lawyer magazine in a list of the twenty top cases of 2015.[40] The case brought by price comparison site Foundem and online mapping site Streetmap against Google is the first English case alleging abusive conduct on the part of the search engine. The trials will run back to back and are due to commence in November 2015.

In March 2015 Bristows was named "UK Trade Marks Contentious Team of the Year, 2015" at the Managing IP Global awards. This was in recognition of recent successes in contentious trade mark work including work for Cadbury, Marks & Spencer, Thomas Pink, Babcock, BDO and Redd.[41]


  1. ^ Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners
  2. ^ "''Chambers Student Guide''". 
  3. ^ Robert Wilson’s name first appears in the Law Society Law List for the year 1837 and gives his address as 1 Copthall Buildings
  4. ^ Referred to in the cost book for the firm for the period from 1837 to 1841
  5. ^ The obituary of Ebenezer J Bristows appeared in the Law Society’s Gazette December 1908.
  6. ^ A History of the Firm by G B Cooke. George Cooke (son of Henry Cooke) was a partner of the firm. He joined the firm in 1929 and retired in 1979.
  7. ^ "Patent laws of the world : collected, edited and indexed / by Alfred Carpmael and Edward Carpmael | National Library of Australia". 
  8. ^ British Thomson-Houston Company v DuramHL 35 RPC 46, 161
  9. ^ G B Cooke, A History of the Firm. George Cooke (son of Henry Cooke) was a partner of the firm. He joined Bristows in 1929 and retired in 1979.
  10. ^ G B Cooke, A History of the Firm
  11. ^ Outer House (Court of First Instance) and an Appeal to the Inner House by the Defendant’s was dismissed (see 69 RPC 2612 and 70 RPC 69).
  12. ^ [1967] RPC 419
  13. ^ [1987] RPC 553
  14. ^ "DEALS OF THE WEEK 3.08.2000 | News | Law Society Gazette". Retrieved 2015-03-07. 
  15. ^ Kabushi Kaisha Sony Computer Entertainment Inc v Owen (t/a Neo Technologies) [2002] EWHC 45 (Ch)
  16. ^ In the matter of application no. 2104259 by the BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION to Register a series of three marks in Classes 9, 16, 25 and 41 AND In the matter of Opposition Thereto under No 48452 by the Metropolitan Police Authority 14 August 2002.
  17. ^ "Moves roundup". The Lawyer. 8 June 2009. 
  18. ^ Intel Corp. v VIA Technologies Inc [2002] EWCA Civ 1905
  19. ^ "Trade Mark Inter Partes Decision O/140/07" (PDF). 
  20. ^ [2008] EWCA Civ 445
  21. ^ Wake Forest University Health Sciences v Smith & Nephew plc [2009] EWCA Civ 848
  22. ^ SAS Institute v World Programming [2010] EWHC 1829 (Ch) / Case C-406/10
  23. ^ Kelly v GE Healthcare Ltd [2009] EWCA Civ 848
  24. ^ "Awards 2010: Winners | Features". The Lawyer. 
  25. ^ "Managing IP Global Awards 2010". Managing Intellectual Property. 24 June 2010. 
  26. ^ "The Workplace Engagement Specialists". Best Companies. 
  27. ^ "Star Navigation". Star Navigation. 
  28. ^ (2011) EWHC 1470 (Pat)
  29. ^ "Welcome | Top Employers for Working Families Awards". 
  30. ^ Reported in The Times newspaper, 12 January 2012, by Edward Fennell.
  31. ^ [2011] EWHC 271 (Pat)
  32. ^ "The Legal 500 > Bristows LLP > London, ENGLAND > What we say". Retrieved 2015-03-07. 
  33. ^ "Awards: Mishcon de Reya, Brick Court scoop top prizes". The Lawyer. 
  34. ^ Laura Chamberlain. "Four banks in top ten family-friendly UK employers – 9/25/2012". Personnel Today. 
  35. ^ " / Special Reports / Innovative Lawyers". Financial Times. 
  36. ^
  37. ^ "IPcom GmbH & Co Kg v HTC Europe Co Ltd & Ors [2013] EWCA Civ 1496 (21 November 2013)". Retrieved 2015-03-07. 
  38. ^ "Smith & Nephew Plc v Convatec Technologies Inc & Anor [2013] EWHC 3955 (Pat) (12 December 2013)". Retrieved 2015-03-07. 
  39. ^ "The Legal 500 Awards - US Awards 2014: Law Firm Winners and Nominees.". Retrieved 2015-03-07. 
  40. ^
  41. ^

External links[edit]