Celebrating 150 years of innovation
When 27-year-old John Clayton Mewburn founded his intellectual property practice in 1867, he quickly set it on the path to a forward-thinking firm that embraced innovation. Joining forces with George Beloe Ellis, a solicitor fascinated by new inventions and industrial property, the two men set about fulfilling their desire to protect the science they loved.
150 years on, Mewburn Ellis continues to operate at the forefront of innovation, protecting inventions, creatively solving client problems, and playing a leading role in the national and international development of the intellectual property profession.
Rumoured to be first in the queue for the telegraphic address PATENT LONDON in 1887, Mewburn succeeded in beating the London Patent Office to the iconic address. Today, the firm continues to prioritise investment in modern infrastructure. Our innovative paperless office helps us provide clients with a fast, efficient service that is hard to match in a more traditional setting.
Outside the firm, as early as 1902, J.C. Mewburn and G.B. Ellis recognised the value of local presence to building strong client and sector relationships. At that time, the enterprising partners took over a Newcastle practice, helping ship building and mining clients protect their innovations throughout the 20th century. In the 1920s, the firm’s attention turned to Sheffield and Bristol before adding a Manchester practice in the 1980s. The Cambridge office, opened in 1990 to strengthen links with the emerging genetic engineering and pharmaceutical sectors, continues to grow in tandem with these thriving industries.
With each expansion, the firm’s reputation for a client-focused, creative approach to IP protection spread. Firm folklore tells of G.B. Ellis’ daughter, Margaret Dixon, being fondly known as the ‘Opposition Queen’ for her skills on both sides of a case. Margaret’s cousin, Lovell Ellis, was respected as a practical man who found ingenious ways to help and manage clients, including overcoming objections to registering Bristol Milk and Bristol Cream as Trade Marks for sherry on the basis that being non-dairy was deceptive. As he pointed out, patent leather shoes deceived no-one. More recently, a current partner was the first to successfully patent an aptamer, continuing a life sciences tradition back to our filing of one of the first patent applications for a recombinant protein/genetic engineering invention at the European Patent Office almost 40 years ago.
An equally long tradition exists for embracing and nurturing talent across diverse skills, geographies and gender. When Margaret Dixon joined the firm in 1929, and qualified as a Patent Agent in 1936, she became the first woman to take up patent agency as a full-time career.
Since those early days, Mewburn Ellis has valued and nurtured both technical skills and legal expertise. Today, over half of the partners and associates hold PhDs in fields from biochemistry to physics. Once at the firm, individuals continue to build their skills through our unique internal training programme. Mewburn Ellis is recognised in the industry for our commitment to training new attorneys, and for our success supporting our people through to qualification.
Developing talent across the industry is just as important. For over 30 years, the two-week Mewburn Ellis Course on European Patents has enabled practitioners from Japan and other Asian countries to study the legal and practical aspects of working with the EPC and EPO. In addition to knowledge sharing, the course offers a unique opportunity for delegates and Mewburn Ellis attorneys to forge strong working relationships that benefit the individuals, clients and the global profession.
Indeed, since J.C. Mewburn became a founding member of the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents (CIPA) in 1882, Mewburn Ellis has played a leading role in promoting IP globally and shaping the national and international profession. Throughout our history, partners and staff have been encouraged to contribute through publications, conferences and events, and by taking prominent roles on bodies in the UK such as CIPA and the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Agents (CITMA) as well as international bodies including FICPI, INTA, MARQUES, AIPPI, CEIPI and JIPA. We are proud of the role Mewburn Ellis partners have played in developments such as the European Patent Convention of the 1970s, and forging strong partnerships in Japan, China and across the globe.
From its small beginnings in 1867, Mewburn Ellis has grown into a vibrant, outward-looking partnership with innovation at its core. By carefully retaining the relaxed, collaborative feel of a smaller family firm, the partnership has created a meritocratic culture which values everyone’s contribution. The benefits are evident in the strength of our relationships with clients and overseas attorneys, our leading position in many sectors, and our ability to attract and retain talented people.