The ever-increasing importance of inter-operability and standardisation has been reflected in a surge in litigation of Standard Essential Patents and FRAND issues. The UK jurisdiction has taken a leading position with its willingness to provide a global solution.

With its leading high-tech patent litigation and competition law practices, and over a decade’s experience in leading cases, Bristows is uniquely placed to advise both patent owners and implementers alike.

SEP/FRAND disputes require a particular type of expertise possessed by only a very few firms globally. At Bristows, five partners and a group of specialist associates within the patent litigation group work seamlessly with two partners and their associates in the competition law group to provide a bespoke service which is second to none.

In an area where forum shopping is of critical importance, our expertise naturally extends to the jurisdictional and international coordination aspects of the subject. Our market-leading patent litigation practice, with numerous physicists, engineers and computer scientists, can deal with the most complex technology, be it in telecoms, automotive or other sectors. Our competition team, with its deep understanding of the economic and commercial realities of licensing can frame the best possible case for an appropriate FRAND licence, whether that case needs to be made in court, before an arbitral panel, or a competition regulator.

Bristows’ clients, whether they are patentees, implementers or patent pools, trust the combined team to really ‘get’ the issues in this complex and fast-moving field.

We are familiar with many ETSI, IEEE, ITU and other standards, and the patent litigators understand the particular issues arising in the litigation of standard essential patents, such as identification of working group proposals which may form part of the prior art. The competition team understands how FRAND licences are negotiated in practice, and common issues such as hold-up / hold out, royalty stacking and privateering, as well as advising on compliance with the Huawei v ZTE CJEU regime both before and during litigation.

Key contacts

Myles Jelf


Sophie Lawrance

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IPCom (patent owner): litigating numerous patents from a portfolio of ETSI declared essential patents against Nokia and others (over a period of more than a decade).

Samsung & Google (implementers): defending proceedings by Unwired Planet under a portfolio of five declared ETSI essential patents and one feature patent to successful settlements.

Philips (patent owner):

  • litigation against ASUS and HTC concerning three ETSI declared essential patents including a licence defence (rebutted) and FRAND issues
  • defending proceedings by Vestel for abuse of dominant position regards patents declared essential to HEVC.

ZTE (implementer): litigation by Conversant in respect of four ETSI declared essential patents involving jurisdictional challenges (Supreme Court hearing scheduled for October 2019) as well as standard SEP litigation and FRAND issues.

Samsung: working with Samsung as both implementer and patent owner on competition issues involving FRAND before the European Commission.

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What others say

“They are excellent for patent work – they ensure that we are aligned on strategy, they are personable and they are good at explaining technicalities.”

Chambers and Partners 2020

“a solid and well-regarded IP firm which provides great service and good value for money.”

Chambers and Partners 2020

“They show good judgement, are excellent in execution and are congenial company too.”

Chambers and Partners 2020

“They are superb – business-focused, practical and to the point.”

Chambers and Partners 2020

“Superb patent litigation and IP practice”

Chambers and Partners 2020

Recent rankings and awards

IP: Patent Litigation - Band 1
Chambers and Partners 2020/2019

Competition Law - Band 5
Chambers UK 2020/2019

Competition litigation - Tier 3
Legal 500 2020/2019

EU and Competition - Tier 4
Legal 500 2020/2019

IAM Patent 1000 2019
Gold - Litigation

Patent Litigation - Leading firm
UK Best Law Firms, Leaders League 2018

Patent Contentious - Tier 1
Managing Intellectual Property, IP Stars 2018

Competition Law - Band 5
Chambers Europe 2019