JUVE Patent's international survey of patent experts has shown Daniel Voß, presiding judge at Düsseldorf Patent Chamber, to be the most popular for national patent litigation in Germany. Indeed, Düsseldorf judges dominate the survey results, although they face strong competition from Munich judge Matthias Zigann and Mannheim judge Peter Tochtermann.
28 January 2022 by Mathieu Klos
JUVE Patent asked international patent experts from companies and patent law firms for their favourite judges for patent infringement cases in Germany. Daniel Voß, presiding judge of the Düsseldorf Patent Chamber 4b, came top with 12.7% of the votes. Thomas Kühnen, presiding judge of the 2nd Civil Senate at the Higher Regional Court Düsseldorf, follows closely.
Survey respondents voted two further Düsseldorf judges into the top five. Sabine Klepsch and Ulrike Voß from the 4c Civil Chamber Regional Court and 15th Civil Senate at the Higher Regional Court took the places respectively.
However, their dominance does not go unchallenged. Munich judge Matthias Zigann, from the 7th Civil Chamber Regional Court, came joint third alongside Sabine Klepsch. Zigann and Klepsch are only two percentage points away from first place. Mannheim judge Peter Tochtermann (7th Civil Chamber Regional Court) came in fifth with 9.6% of the vote.
Survey participants voted only well-known patent judges into the top ten. However, even beyond the top ten, participants voted for patent judges from the most important patent courts and the Federal Court of Justice.
But the results do not strongly represent the judges of the 10th Civil Senate at the Federal Court of Justice. One reason for this could be that the senate handles significantly fewer cases than the regional courts, and is therefore less prominent internationally.
Of the Federal Court judges, internationally-known Klaus Grabinski received the most votes. He came in eighth, together with Munich judge Tobias Pichlmaier.
In the same survey, JUVE Patent also asked respondents for their favourite candidates for the Unified Patent Court. They chose Klaus Grabinski as their favourite for the important position of Court of Appeal president. Here, respondents also want to see Thomas Kühnen and Ulrike Voß.
Other German judges gaining international recognition are Matthias Zigann, Daniel Voß and Peter Tochtermann.
Experts would also like to see these individuals take up UPC judicial positions.
Last autumn, JUVE Patent asked patent experts globally for their favourite UPC candidates, as well as their favourite judges for national patent proceedings. JUVE Patent published the UPC results at the end of November, and will publish the results regarding national judges in the coming weeks.
Some 1,300 experts participated in the survey, with 35% of the survey’s participants from France and Germany respectively. The remaining participants were dispersed across other European countries, including the UK, as well as Asia and North America (for our methodology please see here).
“A modern judge with good understanding of the parties’ needs. Very focused discussion in oral proceedings, high-quality judgments,” said a French in-house counsel in praise of first-place Daniel Voß.
“Very experienced. He handles big cases in an efficient way,” writes a German lawyer. The in-house patent counsel of a German company writes, “Daniel Voß is very smart and a brilliant judge.”
Experts recommend Voß especially for mobile communications proceedings and electronics patents. Overall, all German judges have strong expertise in this segment. The survey participants even recommend the Munich and Mannheim patent judges exclusively for such proceedings.
Respondents also praise Düsseldorf judges Sabine Klepsch and Thomas Kühnen for pharmaceutical and biotech proceedings. “Very experienced, fair, thorough legal analysis, also has a technical background,” writes a German lawyer in the survey about Klepsch.
An in-house counsel from France writes, “Very good technical understanding. Clear organisation of the proceedings. Discussions during oral proceedings are to the point. Her judgments have a high quality.”
Thomas Kühnen, according to a German patent attorney, is a “top patent law expert in Germany”, while a German lawyer describes him as “the best patent judge of the older generation”.
With just a few votes between first and fifth place, the race at the top is tight. Just 1.1% separates Sabine Klepsch and Matthias Zigann in joint third place, with Peter Tochtermann in fifth place.
Recently, Mannheim and Munich patent judges have attracted international attention, particularly with their verdicts concerning connected cars. Matthias Zigann’s stance on anti-suit injunctions also brought the Munich judge additional praise from the international patent community.
“Clearly interested and educated on international patent issues. He appreciates the global and regional perspective,” writes an US in-house counsel. “Creative thinker beyond borders,” writes one lawyer. Another praises Zigann, “I don’t always agree with his decisions. He can be quite challenging for lawyers in oral hearings, but I really appreciate that he is going into the legal fundament of each case to find the best solution.”
A Dutch patent attorney writes about Peter Tochtermann, “Very stringent organisation of the proceedings. Good understanding of the parties’ needs.” A licence manager from the Netherlands writes, “Excellent technical understanding, professional and superb organisation.”
Ulrike Voß from the Higher Regional Court in Düsseldorf is described by a survey participant as “very clever, very calm and very well prepared”. They attest to her “concise hearing management”.
Another writes that she is “experienced in all fields of patent law”.
Traditionally, users have responded positively to the Düsseldorf patent judges. Recently, however, they have come under media criticism in some areas. The referral to the European Court of Justice in Nokia’s connected cars lawsuit against Daimler was also controversial.
The Munich Regional Court in particular has caught up strongly in the last two years. The court is seeing a sharp increase in patent litigation, to which it responded by establishing a third chamber. However, the court is currently facing staff upheaval as long-standing presiding judge of the 21st Civil Chamber Tobias Pichlmaier – voted 8th in the JUVE Patent survey – is moving to a chamber for competition law. Georg Werner, who respondents voted into tenth place, is his successor.
Furthermore, the Federal Court of Justice’s antitrust senate, which is responsible for FRAND cases, is still waiting for a decision in an important staffing matter. The court has not yet confirmed Wolfgang Kirchhoff as the senate’s presiding judge after its former presiding judge Peter Meier-Beck, retired in autumn. Meier-Beck has been among the best-known German patent judges for many years.