The Financial Times (FT) has announced plans to list Europe’s top patent law firms, ranking 150 to 300 firms across broad industry sectors. 

The publication plans to ask readers for recommendations of the best IP law firms in Europe.  Participants in the survey will be FT readers that fit into two categories: corporates that have used an IP law firm in one of the 38 countries covered by the European Patent Office (EPO) or patent attorneys recommending their peers.

IP law firms will then be ranked gold, silver or bronze - based on the number of times they are recommended. The specific categories for recommendation will be chemistry and pharmacy; electrical engineering and physics; mechanical engineering; biotechnology, food and healthcare; nanotechnology.

This initiative demonstrates once again how the IP agenda is becoming even more important to business - something the FT has clearly realised with both this initiative and the publication of an article on counterfeiting that highlights the growing importance of protecting key business assets.

The role of the smaller business in innovation

The article also recognised two other important trends. The first is the democratisation of innovation, leading to IP assets increasingly being created by smaller companies.  I recently wrote about this exact subject and the challenges smaller businesses face in navigating what is still a slow, complicated and expensive patent system. The FT article references the streamlining of the EPO’s processes so opposition to the granting of a patent is now dealt with in six months.  In the modern business world this is still too long, but it is a considerable improvement from the six to eight years it previously took.  

Global from the outset

The other critical point – and one my colleagues and I have been making continuously for more than a year – is the pace at which an idea, design or business can go global.  In the internet age, every business that has a website is a global business. The article makes this very point through Eleonora Rosati, an associate professor in intellectual property law at Southampton University, who points out that while technology and businesses are global, IP laws remain national. Navigating a complicated global IP landscape is not likely to be an entrepreneur’s most pressing priority, particularly when a business is growing quickly.  However, ignoring the issue risks the very viability of that business. 

The FT’s initiative, while long overdue, shines a very public and positive light on the IP industry.  I am keen to see the publication do more to highlight the importance of IP to a new generation of entrepreneurs. And I am keen to see the rankings of Europe’s leading patent law firms too - I am certain many of our customers will be strongly recommended!

Law firms can apply to enter the FT rankings before 29th March here.