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Freshfields patent litigation duo exit for WilmerHale

Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr is set to pick up Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer patent litigation partner Justin Watts.  

Freshfields senior associate Matthew Shade will join the US firm with Watts, whose clients have included Rolls-Royce, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Schlumberger.

Watts’ practice covers disputes concerning pharmaceuticals, medical devices, biotech, communications and computers, often involving the interaction between standards, competition law and patents.

According to the Legal 500, Watts is singled out for his ‘vast experience in patent litigation’ while Shade combines ‘acute nous, commercial instinct, grasp of detail, and strategic insight’.

Watts joined Freshfields from Bristows in 2003, having previously worked as an engineer for BT. Shade began his career as a trainee solicitor at Baker & McKenzie before joining the Magic Circle firm in 2007.

Watts and Shade are the first lateral hires the firm has made since launching its London IP litigation practice in 2014, taking on Dentons’ UK patent head Anthony Trenton.

In 2015, WilmerHale wound down its 10-lawyer transactional outpost in the City, with the US law firm refocusing its London practice heavily around its arbitration team. The firm had operated with two London offices since legacy Hale and Dorr merged with Cutler & Pickering in 2004.

In April, Freshfields hired the Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) joint-head of bribery and corruption, Ben Morgan, to its corporate crime and global investigations practice.

Morgan is Freshfields’ fifth London partner with particular experience and expertise in corporate crime matters acting for corporates and financial institutions, an area in which the firm is looking to grow.