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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Bird & Bird

17 February 2016

Handling one of the many ECT claims against Spain over reforms to the solar power sector

Pending cases as counsel 34
Value of pending counsel work US$1 billion
Treaty cases 3
Current arbitrator appointments 12 (of which 6 are
as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 3

Bird & Bird’s arbitration group has distinguished itself primarily in the fields of intellectual property and sport.

The practice has grown steadily in the past few years, steered by Annet van Hooft in Paris, a former ICC counsel who joined from Jones Day in 2011, and London-based Steven Baker, former head of commercial disputes at Olswang, who arrived a year later.

Through their efforts, the practice has been attracting more mainstream commercial and investment treaty work, particularly relating to energy.

Network

Bird & Bird spans 27 offices in 17 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. For arbitration, its main centres are London, Paris, Madrid, Stockholm and, to an extent, Warsaw, with Hong Kong also starting to handle more work.

It also has an association with Alban Tay Mahtani & de Silva, a firm in Singapore. In 2013, it opened two offices in Denmark.

In 2015, the firm gained an Australian disputes group following a merger with a firm there.

Who uses it?

A lot of the practice’s clients still come from the IP-rich technology sector and the sporting world but it’s also advised Accenture, Airbus, Nokia and French pharmaceuticals group Sanofi. .

Poland and the Czech Republic are among the states using the firm on treaty matters.

Meanwhile the sports practice has acted for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the International Tennis Federation and many of the UK’s more important sporting bodies.

Track record

In 2012 and 2013, the firm helped a Sanofi affiliate win a series of ICC awards worth US$170 million in a patent licensing dispute with Genentech, a US affiliate of Switzerland’s Roche Group. The case has spawned court proceedings in France and the European Court of Justice.

In 2012, it had a good result for Nokia in an SCC arbitration against RIM, the maker of BlackBerry, over patent rights. The size of the awards isn’t public but is believed to be in nine figures.

It also obtained a victory for Nokia in a multibillion-dollar ICC with Samsung over a patent license.

Partner Ivan Sagál in Prague helped the Czech government see off a US$9 million investment treaty claim by UK company Anglia Auto Accessories concerning an investment in a rooftop carrier production facility in Moravia. The SCC Arbitration Institute ordered the dismissal of the case in 2014 after the claimants failed to pay their advance on costs. Bird & Bird also reached a settlement in March 2015 for a global transportation company, ending a US$61 million treaty claim heard at the ICC against a South American country.

Highlights for the sports practice have been representing the German Football Association against the club SG Dynamo Dresden, obtaining a landmark decision on the strict liability of football clubs for the improper conduct of their supporters. It also won for WADA in a sensitive dispute in the run-up to the London Olympics about whether the organisers could permanently ban drug cheats. The answer? “No.”

Recent events

Van Hooft took over as co-head of the international arbitration group with Baker following the departure of Vonnick le Guillou to DLA Piper and Graham Maher joined as the Sydney-based head of the Australian dispute resolution group.

Hong Kong partner Catherine Mun left the firm for a local practice, Li & Partners.

The firm continues to defend Poland against a US$1 billion claim brought under the Poland–India bilateral investment treaty concerningan investment in chain stores.

On the investor side, it is working for Dutch and Luxembourg companies in one of the multiple pending Energy Charter Treaty claims against Spain over its reforms to the tariff regime for the photovoltaic sector. This one is under SCC rules.

It’s also representing a sports marketing agency in three SIAC arbitrations over media and broadcasting rights to international tournaments and sporting events.

Following its successes for Sanofi, the firm is still helping the company to defend its US$160 million ICC awards in French set-aside proceedings brought by Genentech (represented by Shearman & Sterling.

For the first time in the context of a set-aside proceedings, the courts have sought clarification of an issue from the European Court of Justice before determining whether the awards breach international public policy – a decision Bird & Bird has appealed to the French Cour de Cassation

A US$61 million ICC treaty claim the firm brought against a South American country on behalf of a global transport company settled in 2015.

Client comment

Sanofi’s global head of device patents, Marcus Schwarzhaupt, says the firm “did an excellent job” in exploiting the dynamics of arbitration to gain “strategic advantage”.

Stuart Miller, executive director at the International Tennis Federation, says the firm’s attention to detail and preparation are second to none. “We have the upper hand before we start,” he says.

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