Year in review 2021

Top patent partner and judge moves 2021

Major external developments continue to impact how Europe's patent law and attorney firms conduct business – including hiring decisions. Last year, coronavirus unexpectedly became a deciding factor in firm's personnel strategy. But over 2021 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.

27 December 2021 by Amy Sandys

partner moves, 2021 Over 2021, the European patent market has seen multiple partner moves and court developments - for example, with three new first-instance IP judges in Paris ©Felix Catana/ADOBE STOCK

In terms of partner moves and personnel changes, the European patent market was very active in 2021. Uncertainties surrounding the impact of coronavirus are beginning to wane, with patent law and attorney firms feeling more confident in their hiring abilities. Similarly, lawyers and patent attorneys are more secure in making major decisions which could impact their future career trajectory.

But another major factor in the market’s development is the now almost-certain launch of the Unified Patent Court. And, while Europe’s patent firms are strengthening their presence in the continent’s major jurisdictions, the UK is also taking steps to remain a serious challenger in the market.

Partner moves in Paris

This year, major market development came from French firms who showed they were more willing to break away from a bilateral model. Previously, this saw patent litigation firms exist alongside patent attorney firms. For example, in hiring two patent lawyers Jean-Christophe Guerrini and Alexander Paichadze, French patent attorney firm Plasseraud is among those expanding their offering.

Bird & Bird also hired new counsel Frédéric Portal as a dual-qualified life sciences lawyer. Here, the firm is underlining its commitment to a mixed setup, as successfully practiced by the market-leading German team. Furthermore, at DLA Piper, the addition of a four-strong team from Altana bolstered the Paris team to a total of 25 IP professionals.

UPC increases footfall

In Germany, Allen & Overy hired former Hogan Lovells partner Stephan Neuhaus as partner in an important move to strengthen the firm’s presence in Düsseldorf. Then, in November, IP boutique Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett & Dunner became the latest US firm to pitch up on German soil.

Lawrence King

In April, Pinsent Masons lost partner Michael Schneider to Eisenführ Speiser, followed closely by tech patent litigator Peter Koch moving to IP boutique Taliens. However, the firm is enjoying a run of form in hiring in London. It welcomed, among others, five new recruits including former CMS Cameron McKenna partner Gareth Morgan.

In Amsterdam, renowned patent litigator András Kupecz also joined Pinsent Masons in early December. And Simmons & Simmons grew its patent attorney team in the UK and the Netherlands, welcoming Lawrence King and Johan Renes respectively as partners to the firm.

Tjibbe Douma also joined Bird & Bird in the Netherlands, after moving with two associates from Dentons. This hire has allowed the pan-European patent practice to strengthen its presence in Amsterdam, where previously it was based mostly in The Hague.

Top partner moves in 2021

January: DLA Piper revives French patent practice with team from Altana
February: Bird & Bird expands Dutch IP practice with team from Dentons
April: In Düsseldorf, Allen & Overy hire life science litigator from Hogan Lovells
April: Simmons & Simmons strengthens London and Amsterdam team with patent attorneys
May: Mishcon de Reya hire expands patent partnership in London
August: Taliens gains new partner following second Pinsent Masons departure
September: Plasseraud is next French patent attorney firm to adopt mixed approach
September: Bird & Bird hires dual-qualified life sciences specialist in Paris
November: Pinsent Masons London life sciences team grows again with six CMS hires
November: Finnegan enters German patent market with Baker McKenzie team
December: Pinsent Masons appoints second patent partner in Amsterdam

Patent courts see movement in Europe

The past year is not all about patent partner moves, however. Europe’s IP courts have seen a myriad change, especially in Germany and France. In March, Tim Crummenerl took up a new position as a judge at the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, from his previous role at the Regional Court Düsseldorf. The judge moved to the 10th Civil Senate, which is Germany’s highest instance for patent infringement proceedings.

Bérénice Thom © Landgericht Düsseldorf

This news was followed in August by the announcement that Bérénice Thom replaces Crummenerl as new presiding judge at the 4a Patent Chamber of Düsseldorf Regional Court. Thom became acting head of the 4a Patent Chamber after her predecessor left. She had been deputy presiding judge for several years.

In Munich, the city’s Regional Court announced a new civil chamber chaired by Georg Werner. It began hearing cases, including patent infringement suits, in August 2021.

France’s new judicial team

In September, all three first-instance sections of the IP chamber at the Tribunal judiciaire de Paris had new presiding judges. This followed Carine Gillet and Florence Butin moving for new positions in other French courts.

James Mellor

Nathalie Sabotier, who originally presided over the first section, took over from Gillet as presiding judge of the third section of the IP chamber. Then, Gilles Buffet, Sabotier’s associate judge for the past three years, assumed her previous position. Catherine Ostengo took over from Butin.

Finally, early on in 2021, the UK judiciary appointed James Mellor as its latest IP-specialist judge. He joins another 8 New Square alumnus Richard Meade on the judicial bench.

Ultimately, the appointments of both Mellor and Meade are helping close the gap created through various promotions and retirements of UK judges.

Important court developments in 2021

January: UK High Court appoints James Mellor as IP-specialist judge
March: Tim Crummenerl takes up new role at German Federal Court of Justice
June: Georg Werner to chair new Munich court third patent chamber
August: Bérénice Thom is new presiding judge at Regional Court Düsseldorf
September: Court reshuffle means three new presiding judges for Paris’ IP chamber