Paris courts attract soaring number of patent cases

The number of patent lawsuits filed at the French courts has been rising for years. For example, in 2022 the first-instance Judicial Court of Paris again recorded an increase of almost 3.5% in newly filed cases compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, the impending Unified Patent Court is causing numerous staff changes at the Paris courts – including at the second-instance Court of Appeal.

10 March 2023 by Konstanze Richter

Paris courts At the first-instance court in Paris, the Tribunal Judiciaire, the numbers of court cases rose by more than 3% in 2022 compared to 2021. ©PhotoLoren/ADOBE STOCK

The Judicial Court of Paris’ 3rd Chamber, which is responsible for IP, has issued its statistics for the past year. These show an increase of almost 3.5%, from the 174 new lawsuits filed by parties in 2021, to 180 new patent lawsuits filed by parties in 2022. Like in previous years, the numbers indicate that parties pursuing patent litigation are increasingly turning to judges of the Paris courts to reach a decision. Despite various staff changes, however, it seems this trend is only set to continue.

Paris courts en vogue

The upward trend highlights how patent disputes are becoming increasingly important for the chambers of the Paris courts. For example, where in 2021 patent proceedings accounted for 16% of all new cases, this figure rose to 18% in 2022.

Furthermore, at the Judicial Court, parties most frequently fight over the infringement of European patents, which are the subject of 102 of the new lawsuits. Parties filed a further 57 lawsuits over the infringement of French national patents. Nullity suits and employee invention disputes comprise the remainder.

Although a large part of the year saw two of the three sections at the 3rd Chamber each staffed with only two instead of three judges, the IP judges again concluded more cases than in the previous year. In 2021, the judges concluded 170 proceedings by judgment, withdrawal or settlement. However, in 2022, this number rose to 188.

Similar to new lawsuits, the percentage of settled patent cases in relation to other IP cases at the 3rd Chamber also increased. In 2022, parties settled just under 18.7% of cases, compared to 15.5% in the previous year. Around half of these concerned infringement of European patents (95), while another third cover the infringement of national French patents (61).

Trend unbroken

Following on from the 2022 figures, initial figures from January 2023 also suggest an unbroken trend toward more patent litigation in France. At the beginning of the year, the 3rd Chamber judges had 222 ongoing patent cases in their sights. This means that, currently, patent disputes account for almost 20% of all proceedings at the Paris Judicial Court. Furthermore, these figures are likely to impact on the higher-instance courts, such as the Court of Appeal – although statistics are not yet available.

At the same time, the courts recorded numerous staff changes across all instances. This is partly related to the UPC’s appointment of five French judges. Furthermore, in France, in order to maintain independence, French judges commonly rotate between chambers in different areas of law. In patent law, many years of experience are advantageous in conducting what are often technically complex proceedings.

While the rotation principle at French courts still leads to a high judge turnover compared to other countries, the trend nevertheless sees judges return to IP senates after a period in another area of law. Often, they also move from courts specialising in soft IP, such as Nanterre, to Paris chambers. The latter also hear patent disputes.

Judicial Court of Paris in reshuffle

However, only two judges each, instead of the planned three, currently staff two of the 3rd Chamber’s three sections. Vice president Nathalie Sabotier presides over the 1st section with Malik Chapuis, who joined from the Court of Appeal in August 2020, assisting. He most recently sat on the bench alongside her and Jean-Christophe Gayet, who is currently presiding judge of the third section, in the high-profile case between inventor Mr Allani, and Apple and Google.

Elodie Guennec, who moved to the IP Chamber from the Justice Department in December 2021, is the third judge of the section. This makes the 1st section the only section to be fully staffed. Another young judge, Anne Boutron, is also joining the team at the 1st chamber. Following further training in IP matters, from July 2023 Boutron will likely take over a vacancy in one of the other two sections.

Moving around France

Currently, Arthur Courillon-Havy and Irene Benac staff the 2nd section. The former came from the Judicial Court in Meaux in 2021. He has since worked on cases such as Enyx vs. Novasparks, Philips vs. Xiaomi, and proceedings involving Intellectual Ventures. Benac joined in July 2022 from the Judicial Court of Nanterre, one of the French courts which has a strong focus on soft IP.

Jean-Christophe Gayet, who joined in July 2022 from a presidency position at the Judicial Court of Sens, is now presiding judge of the 3rd section. Linda Boudour, who has been at the 3rd Chamber since November 2021 and came from the Judicial Court of Verdun, assists Gayet. The patent community are well aware of Boudour through her involvement in various patent disputes, such as the Intellectual Ventures and Enyx vs. Novasparks proceedings.

In 2022, several judges left the chamber. This includes Catherine Ostengo and Gilles Buffet, who presided over the case concerning fingolimod, which involved Novartis and several generic drug companies, as one of their last reported-on proceedings. Ostengo moved to the first-instance court in Monaco, Gilles Buffet to the Paris Court of Appeal; neither are currently involved in IP proceedings. On the other hand, Laurence Basterreix, who sat on the bench in the pemetrexed trial, moved to the EPO Boards of Appeal as a legal judge in 2022.

Alix Fleuriet will continue to deal with IP in her position at the Judicial Court of Nanterre, although she will not hear patent cases. Elise Mellier, who sat on the bench in many patent cases, such as the SEP proceedings between Philips and Xiaomi, has also left the Judicial Court. From September 2022, she took up a position for a three-year period with the French competition authority.

Well-known IP judge Carine Gillet, who moved to the Court of Appeal of Douai in 2021, is one of the French judges appointed by the UPC. For many years, she dealt with patent disputes at the 3rd Chamber of the Judicial Court of Paris.

UPC impacts Court of Appeal 

With the retirement of Brigitte Chokron in May 2022, and the UPC’s appointment of Florence Butin and Camille Lignieres, the Paris Court of Appeal is now also experiencing staffing issues.

The 1st and 2nd Chambers of the 5th Department, which are responsible for IP matters, currently employ six judges, with Isabelle Douillet the presiding judge of the 1st Chamber. Deborah Bohee and Francoise Barutel join her on the bench. Although the UPC has also appointed the latter as a judge, Barutel will initially work part-time at the new court. All three are experienced patent judges, with involvement in numerous proceedings such as the dispute over provisional damages over pemetrexed, or in Allergan’s treatment for eye condition glaucoma.

Veronique Renard, who moved in July 2022 from the Court of Appeal of Douai, is now presiding judge at the 2nd Chamber. She is experienced in patent cases, having spent several years at the 3rd Chamber of the Judicial Court. Her colleagues Laurence Lehman and Agnes Marcade have presided over cases at the Court of Appeal for some time, for example recently in the case between Subsonic and Sony concerning game consoles.

Supreme Court gains visibility

From the Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation), Melanie Bessaud will move to the UPC’s Central Division in Munich. Even if the French Supreme Court is not quite as high profile in patent proceedings, the court’s chamber of commerce, finances and economy has recently landed some interesting disputes.

For exampe, a ruling between Hutchinson, Tyron Runflat and Global Wheel attracted particular attention. According to the decision, French courts have jurisdiction in infringement cases in other countries if parties are based in France. Thus, like the Dutch judges, the French judges can also issue cross-border injunctions.