Year in review 2020

Top patent partner and judge moves 2020

In years of crisis, such as 2020, firms can be reluctant to make strategic investments in new offices or lateral hires. Furthermore, market players do not change firm without good reason. But, even in the year of coronavirus, the market showed little sign of slowing. Numerous lawyer and patent attorney moves shaped the market in the most important European patent jurisdictions.

28 December 2020 by Mathieu Klos

Düsseldorf and its patent courts are the anchor for UK firm Herbert Smith Freehills' patent team on the continent since 2020. ©saiko3p/ADOBE STOCK

Although the coronavirus pandemic initially sent the patent world into a state of shock, this year numerous partner moves in Germany, France, the UK and the Netherlands influenced the development of law firms. In the UK, 2020 also saw important judge appointments in the patent courts.

Important partner moves 2020

In Germany, a main event was the arrival of Herbert Smith Freehills into the German patent scene. The UK firm, which has a solid position in life sciences litigation, already had an office in Düsseldorf. However, in April 2020 the firm welcomed Ina vom Feld, former partner at Simmons & Simmons, as its first patent litigator in Germany.

Top patent partner and judge moves 2020

Ina vom Feld

Then, although the move momentarily weakened the firm, Simmons & Simmons fought back. Like Herbert Smith, it is a major player in pan-European patent disputes. Simmons thus invested in its Munich team by welcoming former Noerr partner Thomas Gniadek.

In Amsterdam, the firm brought in former De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek Oscar Lamme. The firm made the latter a partner.

In London, too, lawyers and patent attorneys appeared willing to move. This is even under the most difficult conditions imaginable, with people working from home, in a locked-down megacity. In May, former Pinsent Masons partner Deborah Bould moved to DLA Piper. Osborne Clark also boosted its London patent team in December, with new arrival Tim Harris from Bird & Bird.

Top partner moves in 2020:

February: Mewburn Ellis and Boult Wade Tennant bolster German offices
April: Herbert Smith Freehills finally opens patent practice in Düsseldorf with former Simmons & Simmons Partner
May: DLA Piper builds London practice with tech partner hire
June: Bardehle Pagenberg rebuilds Düsseldorf team with Kather Augenstein litigator
June: Simmons & Simmons rebuilds its patent team in Munich
July: Arnold & Siedsma merges with Belgian patent firm LC Patents
October: Simmons & Simmons strengthens Dutch offering with new hires
December: Osborne Clarke wins Bird & Bird partner in London

Patent courts appoint new judges

Continuity among patent judges is a key factor for a smooth-functioning patent system. In 2020, the judiciary made some important appointments to ensure a long-term, high-quality dispensation of justice.

In particular the London High Court had a succession problem to solve. Well-regarded High Court patent judge Henry Carr passed away in 2019, and High Court judge Richard Arnold departed to the Court of Appeal.

Top patent partner and judge moves 2020

Richard Meade

Then, in August 2020, the UK’s most prominent patent judge Colin Birss was promoted to the Court of Appeal. But the UK government fulfilled its duty and found two full-time judges for the High Court.

In October, Richard Meade, former barrister at 8 New Square chambers, joined the UK High Court as a specialist patent judge. JUVE Patent is aware that a second full-time judge will be appointed at the end of this year.

The German Federal Court of Justice also took some important steps. Klaus Bacher took over the 10th Senate responsible for patents as presiding judge. In 2019, long-time presiding judge Peter Meier-Back took over the cartel senate. Most recently, the latter has handed down important FRAND rulings.

Furthermore, the highest German court appointed Tim Crummenerl as patent judge. Crummenerl is currently presiding judge of the 4a Civil Chamber at the Regional Court Düsseldorf. According to source close to both courts, he will move to the Federal Court sometime in mid-2021. This will leave open a position at the Regional Court Düsseldorf.

Important court developments in 2020:

March: “Harmonisation of jurisdiction could only be achieved through a UPC” – interview with French patent judges Nathalie Sabotier and Carine Gillet
June: Klaus Bacher appointed patent senate judge at German Federal Court of Justice
July: German Federal Court of Justice announces new judge
August: Court of Appeal appoints Colin Birss as new judge
September: UK High Court appoints Richard Meade as patent judge