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Solicitors and Agents

In 1936, James Whitehead QC noted that there were only ‘one or two law firms specialised in patent law’ in Britain. Bristows was undoubtedly one of them. It had developed a distinct reputation as the most prominent patent law firm from the late nineteenth century. The other firm of solicitors disputing that title was probably Bird & Bird. The entry of city law firms into intellectual property practice from the 1970s overlapped –not coincidentally- with the recognition of the field as distinct legal subject, its Europeanisation and the mushrooming of publications recognising its importance. On the other hand, patent agents, a profession differentiated from solicitors, traditionally spread around Southampton Buildings (for a long time the location of the Patent Office) and Chancery Lane. While the twentieth century also witnessed the emergence of trade mark agents as a distinct field of expertise, both professions of patent and trade mark agents developed in synchrony, changed their ambitions and grew in relation to the establishment of two bureaucratic offices: the European Patent Office in Munich and the Office of Harmonisation for the Internal Market in Alicante.