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Two Bay Street law firms are bulking up on patent expertise with recent moves to bring leading intellectual property lawyers on as partners.

Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP said on Monday that Jason Markwell will join its Toronto office as a partner, leaving boutique IP litigation firm Belmore Neidrauer LLP after four years. Prior to that he spent more than a decade at another large firm, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP.

Earlier this month, Gowling WLG LLP announced it hired Ron Dimock, who co-founded the IP firm Dimock Stratton LLP in 1994. In 2016, that 16-lawyer practice merged with DLA Piper (Canada) LLP.

Scott Jolliffe, who helped recruit Mr. Dimock, spent about two decades in firm management including a stint as CEO of Gowling before returning to IP practice. It’s a significant focus for the firm, he says, because "the key assets of 90 per cent of the economy are in the tech field.”

“There is great value in brands and technology that allow businesses to distinguish their products in the marketplace.” Mr. Joliffe said the IP field now includes not just the traditional digital technology and pharmacare spheres but also cleantech, fintech, agritech and more.

“Artificial intelligence, 5G [fifth-generation wireless technology], IoT [Internet of things] – all of these are built on the legal concept of intellectual property.”

The practice of IP law includes helping clients identify new technologies that should be covered by patents, registered as trademarks or considered trade secrets, as well as protecting those rights through litigation if necessary. IP lawyers can also play key advisory roles in mergers and acquisitions and complex sales.

Gowling’s IP group has about 175 professionals (lawyers as well as patent and trademark agents) across Canada. But landing Mr. Dimock, a prolific IP trial lawyer, was a long-held ambition for Mr. Jolliffe, who says, “Ron and I started at same time and spent years as fierce opponents. For years we tried to recruit each other."

Fasken has a smaller but still substantial IP practice, with 55 professionals in the group. Mr. Markwell, who has 20 years of litigation experience primarily focused on pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, said he was drawn back to a large, full-service firm because it could cover the full range of client needs from an IP perspective.

“Litigation is typically what I do, but my clients are not in the business of litigation,” he says. “The clients that I serve really need advice throughout the product life cycle. From the earliest moment of conceiving of the invention, filing patent applications, raising capital to do clinical studies, getting marketing approval and all of the usual things that go into running a business."

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