The WTR 1000 focuses exclusively on trademark practice and has firmly established itself as the definitive 'go-to' resource for those seeking world-class legal trademark expertise
Bronze - Individuals: enforcement and litigation
Founded in 2013, Stobbs may no longer be a new name on the market, but it is most certainly still a disruptive, exciting and innovative one. Having spotted the need for integrated commercial and technological solutions to the challenges faced by brand owners, it has always strived to do things differently and offer much more than traditional IP services. To give a sense of this, it has a fast-growing in-house investigations team – Brand Intelligence – comprising former law enforcement professionals and cybercrime experts; it also develops and co-develops unique software and other tools to automate the management of trademark records through machine learning – a process which it is constantly refining; and it has eschewed the traditional partnership structure, which allows individuals to shine in different ways. “Among the trademark firms in the UK, Stobbs is the most stacked with talent and packs a huge punch. The depth and variety of experience of each attorney there is unparalleled, and the client service is incredibly personal.” Founding partner Julius Stobbs has “infinite knowledge and experience to draw on”, and gives “consistently pragmatic and truly creative advice”. “He has excellent judgement when it comes to complex enforcement.” Paired together in feedback, he and Emma Pettipher “offer amazing value to clients”: “It doesn’t take long to see how commercial Julius and Emma are, and how holistically they think about brands. They are also people you can speak to without worrying about a clock starting immediately and charges being run up.” Together they act for The Liverpool Football Club and Athletic Grounds Limited on strategic IP protection and enforcement. Whether collaborating with others or working by herself, “Emma is simply lovely to partner with; and the fact that she is trusted by the sorts of brands that others aspire to be gives confidence and brings great reassurance. She manages to juggle a lot of work while giving a top-quality service and training tomorrow’s IP experts – and then still be around for those brainstorming chats; her passion for what she does is evident. Her fees are thoughtfully quoted and highly affordable given the value she adds.” Also garnering rave reviews this year, Chris Sleep captains the solicitor team with aplomb: “He has an instinct for pinpointing the most relevant issues in a case and offers solutions immediately. He has a client base that is the envy of the City and is an outstanding young lawyer who brings a depth of thought and tactical knowledge to his cases that few of his contemporaries can match.” He was instrumental in bringing former Macfarlanes IP head Geoff Steward on board, giving Stobbs a veteran trial lawyer to deploy. Claire Breheny is an anchor of the prosecution and portfolio management practice, but is also comfortable on contentious matters; she has recently been working with Sleep on a multi-jurisdictional opposition. “Claire has excellent technical knowledge and explains complex issues with amazing clarity. Proactive, responsive and helpful, she is someone you can put absolute trust in.” Quality professionals abound at Stobbs: focused on portfolio management, but a smooth negotiator who contributes on many fronts, Louise Goodsell brings order wherever she goes. “Louise knows the details of huge portfolios and is constantly joining the dots on issues to help businesses streamline their protections. Well organised, innovative and cost conscious, she is open to challenges and new ways of working.” A fellow senior trademark attorney, Harpreet Dhaliwal is another major asset thanks to her versatility. Jessica Wolff flexes a detailed knowledge of trademarks, domain names and designs and much else besides, making her a great fit for intersectional IP matters.
A trial lawyer with over 25 years’ experience, Geoff Steward has long been recognised in Chambers and The Legal 500 as a leading individual for IP disputes. He joined Stobbs in 2018 as head of litigation after being a partner and head of the IP group at leading London firm Macfarlanes. Mr Steward brings further experience to the already successful litigation team developed by Chris Sleep over recent years.
Mr Steward has handled IP disputes for some of the world’s leading brands, including Mars, Liverpool FC, Capri Sun, Budweiser, Nike, Pernod Ricard and various Formula One teams. His expertise includes disputes relating to trademarks, passing off, copyright, designs (registered and unregistered), database rights, data protection, breach of confidence and anti-trust. As well as undertaking pure IP claims, Mr Steward has acted on a broad range of contractual disputes relating to brand protection and brand monetisation such as licensing, sponsorship, franchising, manufacturing, supply and distribution. He has acted for clients in industries as diverse as retail, publishing, television, sports (soccer, cycling, golf and Formula One), food and beverages, automotive and aviation.
Below are some of the reported IP cases that went to trial and in which Mr Steward has acted:
- Zino Davidoff SA v A&G Imports Ltd – leading parallel importing trademark infringement case which was ultimately referred to the European Court of Justice;
- Anheuser Busch v Budejovicky Budvar – series of long-running trademark revocation actions that went to the Court of Appeal on the question of honest concurrent use;
- Kangol Limited v Hay & Robertson PLC – Court of Appeal decision on validity of termination of a trademark licence;
- Looney v Trafigura – High Court copyright infringement and contractual repudiation claim relating to literary works;
- Group Lotus v Team Lotus – High Court passing off claim (and two speedy trials) relating to Lotus naming rights for Formula One; and
- New Balance v Liverpool FC: High Court speedy trial on the construction of a matching right in a kit sponsorship contract.
Stobbs was formed in 2013 with 18 people and now has over 110 professionals based in Cambridge, London, Sheffield and Munich (Germany).
Stobbs is a niche IP practice that recognises that to give the best advice on brands, you need more than pure trademark expertise: you need to take a strategic and holistic approach.
To that end, we launched the concept of Intangible Asset Management (IAM) and wrote five key statements that summarise how we work:
- Issues are viewed through a commercial rather than legal lens.
- Trademarks and intellectual property are handled in a better way, by experts who are legally trained yet commercially driven.
- IP expertise is blended with a knowledge of business, a passion for brands and a practical approach to problem solving.
- Legal reassurance and competitive advantage are achieved with a down-to-earth approach that thrives in the grey, but always speaks in black and white.
- We provide a top-end legal service that doesn’t break the bank.
This approach applies equally to single-handed start-ups and large multinational organisations, including many of the world’s best-known brands from fashion, technology, publishing, telecoms, social media, food and beverages, finance and sports.
Our IAM strategic and holistic approach brings a breadth of capability that goes far beyond the scope of any other IP firm. It encompasses the following:
- Trademarks, designs and copyright – in 2019 we ranked second in the United Kingdom and third in the European Union in volume of trademark filing.
- Litigation, disputes and commercial contracts – with a dedicated team led by Chris Sleep, our profile has grown considerably over recent years, helped by the hire in 2018 of Geoff Steward, former head of intellectual property at Macfarlanes. Our litigation practice is now substantial, as exemplified by some key cases (eg, Liverpool Football Club and Mars Inc).
- Brand intelligence – led by Lewis Whiting, this department optimises investigative outcomes by combining our IP expertise and skilled investigations. The team has government-grade intelligence capability and expertise in cybercrime and the dark Web.
- Systems – we are developing our own set of internal and client-facing solutions as we recognise that the trademark sector is poorly served by available software. We are our own fiercest critics, so we are building our systems to fit our clients and our exacting requirements.
- Online brand enforcement – we recognise that it is not enough to have a platform to drive marketplace take-downs; accordingly, our team (led by Rich Ferguson) aims to create lasting impact – treating the cause of the negative agents through platform optimisation, investigation and bespoke escalation.
- Brand extension – led by Esther Jolley, this department looks at how to create low-cost, high-return revenue streams that can also strengthen intellectual property in terms of scope and reputation.
- Valuation consulting – we have dedicated expertise in understanding the value of brands and intellectual property to support our clients in making the right commercial and resource allocation decisions.
- Anti-counterfeiting – this team is led by Caspar Rebling and focuses on sweeps of online market places, relationships with trading standards and law enforcement, coordination of customs activities, investigations, cease and desist programmes, and civil enforcement.
- Brand restructuring – insuring against insolvency risk, this department provides protective benefit for new shareholders/promoting from within and provides tax benefits also.
We own IAM, constantly horizon-scanning the industry and hypothesis-testing with our clients to anticipating the future needs and build forward our functional expertise.
We are really proud of our ethos and approach, and the culture of the firm that follows from it: in 2019 the whole company came together to create our culture manifesto, “What Makes Us, Us”, which you can see on our website. The four ‘Cs’ of clarity, care, cultivate and crush defines how we work, how we treat our clients, our teams and ourselves.
We never wanted to be a standard law firm. We want to be different. We want to be awesome at what we do, of course, but also an amazing place to work with a culture based around excellence, trust, teamwork, collaboration and learning. We want to embrace difference, diversity and disruption. We embrace collective goals. We never stand still. And we also want to have some fun.