Big firms fight for IP rights

The world's largest companies are increasing their efforts to sue those who infringe their intellectual property rights as the downturn continues to bite, according to new research.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the law firm, found that nearly 40 per cent of the largest corporations "are actively looking to litigate" to protect their rights. The report surveyed companies worth between $500m to $5bn (£3.1bn), with operations in more than 16 jurisdictions and more than 10,000 employees.

The latest case emerged earlier this month as BASF Plant Science and rival chemicals group DuPont set up a gruelling court battle over intellectual property rights after filing infringement claims against each other.

Google has also been in dispute with Louis Vuitton parent company LVMH. The luxury goods group accused Google of selling trademarked search terms to rivals potentially selling counterfeit products. Primark has also settled with Laundry Athletics, which alleged that the clothing retailer had copied parts of its leather jacket, made famous by David Beckham, earlier this year.

Laundry's founding partner Julian Dunkerton said at the time cases were becoming more frequent. "They take up an enormous amount of time and energy to pursue, but they are very necessary and we are determined in protecting our intellectual property," he said.

Chris Forsyth, a partner in Freshfields' Intellectual Property practice, said the greater appetite to litigate to protect IP rights "is surprising" because of the cost. Yet he added: "There will be a rise in infringement activity during the downturn as businesses desperate to maintain a presence in the market resort to preying on their competitor's products, brands and technologies. Intellectual property owning companies will be quick to take action to protect their market share."