Staff changes

Movement afoot in Germany’s patent law firms

The new year has brought change for some attorneys and litigators at Germany's patent law firms. With spinoffs, moves and new developments, the country is preparing for a new year of cases and, in some instances, new colleagues. In particular, the Düsseldorf market is experiencing significant staffing updates.

23 January 2020 by Konstanze Richter

German patent law 2020 means multiple staff changes for German patent law firms ©nmcandre/Adobe Stock

Perhaps the most prominent development in Germany’s patent market is the strengthening of the Düsseldorf office of Meissner Bolte. Since the beginning of 2018, the mixed firm has maintained a small office in the nearby town of Ratingen. The office was predominantly staffed by a partner qualified as both lawyer and European patent attorney.

Michael Munsch

However, this spring the office will move to downtown Düsseldorf and become a centre for litigation. Meissner Bolte has brought on board Michael Munsch (38), a litigator from Düsseldorf IP boutique EIP in early January to boost this ambition. Munsch joins as counsel.

At his former firm, Munsch was most recently active in infringement proceedings for non-practising entities concerning SEPs. For example, he was part of the team representing Unwired Planet and Conversant in cases against Huawei. Munsch also advised PanOptis in a case against ZTE.

Munsch started his career at the Cologne law firm LLR Legerlotz Laschet. From mid-2011 until the end of 2014, he gained in-house experience as legal counsel IP in the legal departments of Nestlé and Thyssenkrupp.

In early 2015, Munsch joined EIP in Düsseldorf, where he initially worked in a team with Benjamin Grzimek. When the latter joined Fieldfisher in summer 2017, partner Munsch took over the helm of EIP’s Düsseldorf office. Munsch then handed the reins to Christof Höhne following the latter’s hire from Taylor Wessing in autumn 2017.

Meissner on the move

Following Munsch’s departure, EIP has five lawyers in Düsseldorf. Two are partners. Most recently, Florian Schmidt-Bogatzky bolstered the team when he joined as partner from Bird & Bird in summer 2019.

Pier Luigi De Anna

Meissner Bolte has also brought in patent attorney Markus Wanke from Thyssenkrupp Intellectual Property for the Düsseldorf office. He began his career in IP law in 1998 at the Ratingen-based law firm Fitzner Münch & Kluin. In 2016, Wanke joined the Cologne outfit dompatent. From September 2017 he worked as an in-house patent attorney at Thyssenkrupp Intellectual Property, before joining Meissner Bolte in November 2019.

In addition, patent attorney Constantijn Lookeren Campagne is joining Meissner Bolte in Düsseldorf from Meissner’s Nuremberg office.

Expansion into Munich

Meissner Bolte also strengthened its Munich patent practice at the beginning of the year when it took over the small patent outfit De Anna Patent. This included European patent attorney Pier Luigi De Anna (68), German patent attorney Markus Baur (46) and a trademark lawyer licensed in Spain. Name partner De Anna has many years of experience as an examiner at the European Patent Office. He founded his  own patent law firm in Munich in 2011.

With these new additions, Meissner Bolte is building up its know-how in the life sciences and biotech sectors. De Anna’s team brings clients such as GenomSys, a software provider specialising in DNA data processing, and the Russian biotech company Biocad.

Patent attorney market in transition

While De Anna joined a larger mixed outfit, other patent attorney firms in Germany have followed an opposite trend. Bungartz Christophersen, for example, disbanded at the end of 2019 and formed two new outfits with btb IP Bungartz Baltzer in Cologne, and Christophersen & Partner in Düsseldorf and Wuppertal. Furthermore, patent attorney Alexander Lahni went solo in Düsseldorf.

Formerly, each of the offices operated independently in their respective cities. Therefore the separation will have little effect on the new outfits. Lahni specializes in prosecution work in mechanical engineering and the automotive sector. Christophersen now has two patent attorneys in Düsseldorf and one in Wuppertal. The firm focuses on mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and chemistry.

Clients are mainly small and medium-sized companies, as well as family businesses from the region and neighbouring countries.

Cologne firm btb IP Bungartz Baltzer advises its clients on trademarks and designs, as well as patents. Clients include household goods manufacturer Leifheit and automotive supplier Dura Operating, which the firm regularly advises on EPO patent applications.

Spinoff at Müller Fottner Steinecke

At the same time, the Jülich office of IP firm Müller Fottner Steinecke has separated from its office in Munich. As a result, the Munich-based firm will retain its name despite losing its entire team of patent attorneys. Following this change, the firm is no longer mixed.

The team of the newly founded WJS in Jülich (left to right): Sabrina Witthoff, Peter Steinecke and Robert Jaekel.

The Jülich office, which is close to Aachen, previously operated under the name IP Biotech. However, it is now independent patent attorney firm Witthoff Jaekel Steinecke. The team consists of three patent attorneys, Sabrina Witthoff, Peter Steinecke and Robert Jaekel. The firm is known for its strong focus on biotech and patent filing for Amano Enzyme, Cormatrix Cardiovascular and various universities.

Witthoff Jaekel Steinecke intends to focus strongly on patent attorney advice in litigation matters. The patent attorneys have already worked together with lawyers from Müller Fottner Steinecke in Munich and other law firms in court cases. Following the spinoff, there remains in Müller Fottner Steinecke’s Munich office two German lawyers specialising primarily in trademark and design law. It also has a French trademark lawyer.

Read JUVE Patent’s latest ranking of German filing, prosecution and litigation firms here.