IP lawyers are hot property

DEMAND for talented technology, media and telecoms and IP lawyers in-house has inflamed an already-heated recruitment market.

More companies are starting to focus on innovation and brand awareness as part of the blueprint for future growth.

In recent months, multinationals, including the likes of Kraft and easyGroup, have been on the hunt for IP lawyers, while Disney, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Royal Mail have appointed lawyers into newly created IP roles. And although Kraft Foods is a world leader in brand management, challenges to patents have led to the creation of chief in-house patent roles in Europe and the US.

In September, Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda ,hired Simmons & Simmons senior associate Bryan Driscoll to fill the new role of European general counsel for its Europe research and development centre. Disney, meanwhile, hired its first copyright protection czar for Europe in September, bagging ex-Addleshaw Goddard associate Nick Hanbidge from Hit Entertainment.

Royal Mail recently concluded a board-level review into how the company will compete in a deregulated postal market. Trademark and patent protection came top of the list of its priorities. As a result, Royal Mail has created two new IP positions.

Video games company Mastertronic Group has hired its first general counsel, snaring Pinsent Masons IP senior associate Nav Sunner for the job. Sunner is Mastertronics only in-house lawyer, and is responsible for corporate, commercial and competition work as well as IP.

The market for quality IP lawyers, in the five-to-10-year PQE bracket, is already exceptionally tight. Companies have become another mouth to feed in a market where the right IP lawyers are scarce, making it more difficult to build up IP groups.

Expect salaries and bonuses to rise as IP and IT lawyers become a scarce and valuable commodity. More emphasis will be placed on humane working environments and IP lawyers are likely to see their status rise.

Law firms have looked to exploit the lack of IP lawyers in-house by sending associates on IP secondments to raise the profile of the firm and crosssell services.

But the real winners in this volatile market are the recruiters, who make a fee on each placement.