Major external developments continue to impact how Europe's patent firms conduct business – including hiring decisions and partner moves. Over 2022, the Unified Patent Court has returned to the fore. As such, Europe's patent courts have also seen many new developments, especially in Germany. JUVE Patent takes a look at the top patent partner moves and judicial changes over the past twelve months.
28 December 2022 by Amy Sandys
It’s been a unique couple of years. While 2020 was uncertain for the European and global patent market, over 2021 the market and its lawyers once again began to find their feet. Then, over 2022, the Unified Patent Court arguably had the greatest impact on the hiring strategies of law firms, and partner moves between firms, than any other factor in recent years.
Patent lawyers and patent attorneys alike are more secure in making major decisions which could impact their future career trajectory. On the other hand, firms are keen to secure cross-border expertise in preparation for the burgeoning court.
And all this aside from the creation of two brand new outfits: the market reeled from the news, in August, that German IP outfit Vossius and Dutch boutique Brinkhof had combined to make Vossius & Brinkhof UPC litigators. UK firm EIP and French firm Amar Goussu Staub followed close behind, creating EIP Amar.
Furthermore, while the erstwhile Alexander Ramsay stepped down as UPC Administrative Committee chair, the previous month it had released one of the biggest news stories of the year: finally, the UPC’s technical and legal judges selection became public.
The year began with the Munich office of law firm Simmons & Simmons taking on a group of patent attorneys from Isenbruck Bösl Hörschler, including two equity partners Fritz Lahrtz and Stephanie Nottrott. With partner Peter Meyer also shifting focus from Düsseldorf to Munich in order to support the team’s integration of the new patent attorney team, the changes put Munich at the centre of Simmons’ German patent practice.
Thus, the firm is taking into account the growing importance of the Munich patent court. This is as well as its central location in the new European patent system, given its hosting of both the EPO and a UPC central division.
Towards the end of 2022 was another major market change. This time, Clifford Chance is strengthening its German patent practice with Tobias Hessel, Stefan Richter and Thomas Misgaiski from Hoyng ROKH Monegier.
All join the Düsseldorf office of the international law firm at the beginning of 2023. They complement the practice, which has so far focused on advice on pharmaceuticals and chemicals, with experience in disputes concerning mobile phone patents.
For example, both were part of the team that represented Deutsche Telekom against Intellectual Ventures over mobile phone patents. They also worked for ASML against Nikon over machines for chip production, and Apple, for example in the dispute against Qualcomm and against ParkerVision.
In London, Mark Shillito joined the London office of CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang in March from a senior partner position at Herbert Smith Freehills. He had initially retired from the firm in March 2021. Since losing two partners and five associates in 2021, CMS has since focused on rebuilding its practice. At the beginning of this year, Toby Sears joined the CMS IP team as a partner. Previously, he was a senior associate at Allen & Overy.
It is not only European firms that are gearing up for the UPC, however. Carpmaels & Ransford also hired London-based litigator Agathe Michel-de Cazotte from Hogan Lovells in a push to take advantage of court prior to it opening its doors next year. David Knight also left his long-held position at Fieldfisher to move to Brown Rudnick. This role, which is also focused on the US, also involves client advice regarding the UPC.
Furthermore, two surprising pieces of news also came to the fore around the middle of the year. Firstly, King’s Counsel Justin Turner moved from Three New Square set, whose barristers have a more life sciences-focus, to 8 New Square. While Turner remains firmly on the life sciences speciality, the move reinforces this already market-leading outfit.
Secondly, Trevor Cook returned from WilmerHale to Bird & Bird, where had built his career over 40 years before moving to the New York office of the US firm. Initially, the market viewed Trevor Cook’s departure in 2014 as a blow to the international firm. However, in the past few years, Bird & Bird’s younger litigators have risen up the ranks
January: Simmons & Simmons expands patent attorney practice with Isenbruck team
February: Pinsent Masons hires Taylor Wessing partner in Amsterdam
March: CMS hires former Herbert Smith Freehills senior partner
June: EIP takes on Withers & Rogers partner to bolster electronics practice
July: Prominent life sciences barrister joins 8 New Square
August: Peterreins Schley grows with Bird & Bird partner
September: Carpmaels & Ransford gains European partner in run-up to UPC
October: Trevor Cook returns to Bird & Bird as of counsel
October: Heuking grows patent attorney practice with Farago hire
November: Eversheds Sutherland bolsters Frankfurt office with Reed Smith partner
November: Clifford Chance stages comeback with Hoyng ROKH Monegier patent team
December: Brown Rudnick rebuilds patent capacity with Fieldfisher partner in London
Aside from partner moves in Europe, Europe’s courts experienced various changes. Here, the biggest developments were in Germany.
In January, it was announced that Tobias Pichlmaier, who was then presiding judge of the 21st Civil Chamber of the Munich patent court, will take over an antitrust chamber. As of 1 February, Pichlmaier became head of the 37th Civil Chamber at the Munich Regional Court. This is responsible for competition law.
This move set off a series of motions: Georg Werner then took over as head of the 21st Civil Chamber. He was previously head of the 44th Civil Chamber, which hears many patent infringement suits.
Anne-Kristin Fricke, previously associate judge in the 44th Civil Chamber and the court’s spokesperson, then became head of the 44th Chamber after Werner.
Then, in October, well-known judge Matthias Zigann confirmed his move to the Higher Regional Court Munich on 1 November as presiding judge. Previously, Zigann was presiding judge of the 7th Civil Chamber at the Regional Court Munich. However, shortly afterwards, it was also announced that he will work at the Munich local chamber of the Unified Patent Court, with a 50% position, as of 1 June. The other 50% of the time, he will continue his work as presiding judge at the Higher Regional Court.
Further north in Hamburg, Stephanie Zöllner left the 27th Civil Chamber at the Regional Court Hamburg to preside over the 3rd Civil Senate at the Higher Regional Court Hamburg. Zöllner succeeds Michael Schmidt, who is retiring at the end of August. The Netherlands, too, saw a change as Hogan Lovells’ main man in Amsterdam, Klaas Bisschop, moved to become a judge at the Court of Appeal in Amsterdam.
But the news for which the entire patent market held its breath came at the end of October, when the UPC’s Administrative Council finally released its list of technically and legally qualified judges.
Among the names are such well-known patent greats as Ulrike Voß, Klaus Grabinski and Matthias Zigann from Germany, Rian Kalden and Edger Brinkman from the Netherlands, and Florence Butin and Mélanie Bessaud from France. In addition, many others on the list already preside over patent cases at specialised patent courts in UPC member states. Some also work for the Boards of Appeal at the European Patent Office.
Furthermore, the UPC has clarified that the court will be led by Klaus Grabinski as president of the Court of Appeal, and by Florence Butin as president of the Court of First Instance.
Two Court of Appeal judges, Rian Kalden and Ingeborg Simonsson, and three judges from the Court of First Instance, Camille Lignieres, Ronny Thomas and Peter Tochtermann, complete the Presidium. Additionally, the committee has elected Rian Kalden as presiding judge of the second panel of the Court of Appeal.
The UPC has also appointed five judges full-time, who have already started their work for the start-up preparations. This means the judges have left their current positions, meaning the national courts must find successors for Klaus Grabinski (Federal Court of Justice), Peter Tochtermann (Regional Court Mannheim), Ronny Thomas (Higher Regional Court Düsseldorf), Camille Lignieres (Paris Regional Court) and Florence Butin (Paris Court of Appeal) in the next few weeks. The UPC will thus ensure some movement in the European patent courts next year.
January: Tobias Pichlmaier takes over antitrust chamber at the Munich Regional Court
April: Hogan Lovells frontman Klaas Bisschop moves to the courts
July: Stephanie Zöllner to take over patent senate at Higher Regional Court Hamburg (lak: moves as of sep but news is from July)
October: Higher Regional Court Munich appoints Matthias Zigann as new IP senate judge (lak: he moves as of nov but news is from oct)
October: UPC Administrative Committee publishes final judges list
On the in-house side, several companies have appointed new heads of IP, in both directing and strategy roles. Most notably, former Bardehle Pagenberg partner Alexander Haertel became Cluster Lead Patent at Deutsche Telekom. In this role, he oversees the company’s patent issues, including patent litigation and prosecution. He also helps steer the company’s future UPC strategy.
In April, Volkswagen announced Silke Reinhold as its new head of IP. She succeeded Uwe Wiesner, who retired in June 2022. Elsewhere, patent attorney Sean Alexander moved from Elanco to Chr. Hansen as head of global IP strategy and portfolio at the company’s health and nutrition department.
Read more about this year’s in-house moves in JUVE Patent’s in-house ticker.