Alex Borthwick – Interview
Alex Borthwick – Interview
Of Counsel

What inspired you to study chemistry at university?

At school, I was fortunate to be taught by an excellent chemistry teacher who brought the subject to life.  We’d often have judges from national teaching competitions sitting in to watch him teach.

What then led you to pursue a career in IP litigation?

Obtaining derisory product yields in university lab practicals suggested that my future may lie outside hands-on scientific research.  Through some work experience placements at law firms and a product development company, I saw first-hand a number of IP disputes and realised I would enjoy a role protecting creativity and innovation. Specialising in IP litigation was a natural step to take.  

Tell us about your interest in music.

I spent a gap year at the Royal Northern College of Music studying the cello and was then a university instrumental scholar and a member of the European Union Youth Orchestra, so I have been lucky to have had plenty of opportunities to play.  Highlights that spring to mind include five BBC Proms concerts, playing Elgar on an open top bus with Nigel Kennedy to publicise his latest recording, and performing string quartets in a boxing ring before a match (we got out before the fighting started).  

How does your background in chemistry complement your work as an IP litigator?

It’s been invaluable, particularly for reading in at the start of chemical patent cases and in discussions with expert witnesses.  

Which IP rights do you advise on? Do you enjoy that breadth of practice?

My practice is split between patents and soft IP, which means there is a lot of law to keep on top of, but it gives my working day great variety.  

What is the most significant case you have been involved in during your career?

As a junior lawyer at Powell Gilbert, I was part of the team that asserted the patents to controlled release oxycodone against generic market entry throughout Europe.  I recall an afternoon sitting with our barrister, the late Henry Carr, at his computer keyboard working together on his cross-examination questions for part of the UK validity case.  It was a real privilege to work so closely with him before he became a High Court judge.   

Can you share a memorable experience that stands out from your time at Powell Gilbert?

I gave an after-dinner speech at the annual retreat to celebrate the firm’s 4th anniversary, which concluded with a rendition of ‘happy birthday’ arranged for the only instruments to hand – a pink-coloured plastic child’s violin and a tambourine.  

Which innovation do you think deserves particular recognition?

This patent for a toilet snorkel doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves:
Toilet Snorkel Patent

Tell us an intriguing fact about you.

I once demonstrated a card trick to Paul Daniels (he liked it, not a lot, but he liked it).