Non-contentious IP work has opened up a great divide between magic circle and smaller London firms.
Top 100 firms are benefiting from an influx of talented associates as magic circle firms scale down their trademark prosecution practices.
Associates began pouring out of Linklaters in the months leading up to the end of the firms trademark prosecution department.
In early October senior associates Jonathan Day and Jonathan Critchley defected to Manches, which now plans to create a standalone trademark prosecution practice.
Manches technology, media and IP head Alexander Carter-Silk said: Our trademark portfolios have grown and our clients said we need to make the group bigger. Were going over to a full-service trademark practice.
Day will lead the trademark prosecution and enforcement team, supported by Critchley and Aaron Wood, who joined from Davenport Lyons three months before.
A month earlier a two-lawyer IP team, consisting of highly rated senior associate Michael Gavey and junior associate Becky Horscroft, left Linklaters for Simmons & Simmons.
Non-contentious patent lawyers are also more sought-after these days. Olswang has boosted its practice with senior patent attorney Robert Stephen from pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline, along with Kevin Cordina, a specialist in software and electronics, and contentious IP solicitor Sarah Abbott from Eversheds.
Magic circle trademark prosecutors encounter difficulties when trying to reach billing targets set for corporate and banking lawyers, making the business hard to justify to central management.
Nigel Jones, global head of IP at Linklaters, says: The central management team confirmed that everything [in the IP group] fitted with the firms market leadership strategy. The one exception to that was the pure trademark filing practice.
Smaller firms can justify trademark prosecution as a way to build up client relationships and offer full IP services.