Unified Patent Court

Advisory Committee for selecting UPC judges now complete

Member states have appointed experienced IP figures to the most important body for the preparation of the Unified Patent Court. Appointees include Willem Hoyng, Sylvie Mandel, Joachim Bornkamm, Vittorio Ragonesi and Reinhard Hinger. Many of those selected also have judicial experience at the highest courts in their native countries.

18 March 2022 by Mathieu Klos

The Advisory Committee's 13 IP experts will prepare the selection of approximately 95 UPC judges over the next few weeks ©rachwal/ADOBE STOCK

On 22 February 2022, the Administrative Committee, which leads preparations for the Unified Patent Court, appointed its Advisory Committee. This is a subcommittee tasked with selecting UPC judges.

Ever since it became clear the Unified Patent Court is going ahead, the question of who will be the judges deciding on European and unitary patents has preoccupied the patent community. Therefore, many consider the selection of the judges to be the most important task for the court’s launch preparations. The UPC is expected to open its doors in the second half of this year.

The Advisory Committee includes numerous active and former judges with patent or IP experience, such as the French honorary judge Sylvie Mandel and former German Federal Court of Justice judge, Joachim Bornkamm. Both were previously involved in preparing the application and training process of future UPC judges. Therefore, their appointment to the committee is no surprise.

Willem Hoyng at the helm

The Advisory Committee is led by well-known patent litigator Willem Hoyng, name partner of international IP law firm Hoyng ROKH Monegier. The Dutch lawyer has been involved in the development of the UPC for many years. His appointment as the head of the committee is likely to inspire confidence in the patent community.

Advisory Committee

Willem Hoyng

Sylvie Mandel, honorary judge at the Cour de Cassation in Paris, is the committee’s deputy head.

The patent community has eagerly awaited the composition of the Advisory Committee. However, as JUVE Patent learned, the UPC Administrative Committee published the names only recently.

The fact that, in addition to Mandel and Bornkamm, Germany and France have appointed Marie Courboulay and Peter Meier-Beck as their representatives shows just how seriously they are taking the selection of judges. Both are very experienced former patent judges, long regarded in the patent community as desirable candidates for the UPC.

However, repeated delays in getting the court off the ground mean Courboulay and Meier-Beck can now no longer serve as UPC judges as they have since retired.

Three lawyers on Advisory Committee

Other countries also appointed predominantly judges with IP experience, who are or were active at the highest national courts. Vittorio Ragonesi of Italy, for example, is judge at the Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome. Els Herregodts is Advocate General at the Supreme Court of Belgium.

Peter Strömberg from Sweden also contributes his patent experience. He is former president of the Court of Patent Appeals of his country. Reinhard Hinger is active presiding judge of the chamber ruling on patent and trademarks at the High Court of Appeal in Vienna.

In addition to Willem Hoyng, other lawyers have also found their way onto the Advisory Committee. Mart Enn Koppel is a patent attorney from Estonia, while Emmanuelle Ragot is a lawyer from Luxembourg. Ragot is experienced in IP and tech law. She worked in major law firms in France, Luxembourg and the UK.

95 judges for the UPC

UPC member states nominated the Advisory Committee representatives, with the Administrative Committee making the final appointments.

Peter Meier-Beck, Federal Court of Justice, patent law, SEP, Advisory Committee

Peter Meier-Beck ©Jürgen Markus

In the coming weeks, the Advisory Committee’s main task will be to review the many applications received from active judges, lawyers and patent attorneys. It will conduct interviews and then present a final list of candidates to the Administrative Committee.

However, the Administrative Committee, i.e. the UPC member states, will ultimately decide on the UPC judges. It is currently unclear when this will be.

A further task of the Advisory Committee is to train the future UPC judges. The Preparatory Committee will need to select around 95 legal and technical judges in the next few months. Alexander Ramsay, chair of the Administrative Committee, confirmed this to JUVE Patent last autumn.

Ramsay expects the committee to appoint five full-time judges at the start. In addition, the committee is seeking 90 part-time judges who are both legally and technically qualified.

Most judges will be allocated to a pool, which is likely to be much more international than a recent JUVE Patent survey suggests.

Cast of thousands

It is still unclear which judges have thrown their hat into the ring for a UPC judgeship. Alexander Ramsay, chairman of the Preparatory Committee, told JUVE Patent the Preparatory Committee has received around 1,000 applications from judges. Experts believe that around two-thirds of these are likely to be for technical judges.

But almost all patent judges from Germany and France are said to have applied, with the Netherlands also supplying some strong applications. Furthermore, with Milan vying for the former London divisions, it can be assumed that Italian IP judges will have followed suit.

The UK’s highly-qualified patent judges, such as the Court of Appeal’s Colin Birss and Richard Arnold, can no longer take part following the UK’s withdrawal from the UPC project.

Local divisions set up

Over the years, patent experts in companies and patent firms have made it clear that patent owners will only entrust good patents to the UPC system if it has as many experienced and competent judges as possible. Therefore, future users of the system would like to see experienced patent judges at the UPC.

At its meeting in February, some of the member states confirmed their intention of setting up a local or regional division. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovenia all want to host a local division. Germany will be the only country to have four local divisions.

Sweden will host the regional North Baltic division, which it will operate together with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In addition, the UPC will have central divisions in Paris and Munich. The Court of Appeal will be located in Luxembourg.

Advisory Committee at a glance

Lead: Willem Hoyng (Netherlands, lead) and Sylvie Mandel (France, deputy)

From Austria
Reinhard Hinger, presiding judge of the Chamber ruling Patent and Trademarks at the High Court of Appeal, Vienna

From Belgium
Els Herregodts, Advocate General at the Supreme Court of Belgium

From Bulgaria
Lyubka Petrova, judge at the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria

From Denmark
Mads Bundgaard Larsen, vice president of the Maritime and Commercial High Court

From Estonia
Mart Enn Koppel, patent attorney

From Finland
Kimmo Mikkola, former president of the Market Court

From France
Sylvie Mandel, honorary judge at the Cour de Cassation
Marie Courboulay, honorary judge at the Judicial Court of Paris (alternative member)

From Germany
Joachim Bornkamm, former presiding judge at the Federal Court of Justice
Peter Meier-Beck, former presiding judge at the Federal Court of Justice (alternative member)

From Italy
Vittorio Ragonesi, honorary judge at the Supreme Court of Cassation, Rome

From Luxembourg
Emmanuelle Ragot, attorney at law

From Netherlands
Willem Hoyng, attorney at law and professor in IP law
Toon Huydecoper, former advocate-general at the Supreme Court of the Netherlands (alternative member)

From Sweden
Peter Strömberg, former president of the Court of Patent Appeals

From Slovenia
Marko Brus, higher court judge in the Commercial Dispute Division (Ljubljana)