4 April 2023

The Judges of the Unified Patent Court

The first round of appointments of judges for the UPC have been made.

These founding judges will have a significant impact on the development of the system, from defining how successfully the Court meets its commitment to procedural speed to how commonly injunctions, both interim and final, are obtained. It seems inevitable that the nationality of the judges will play a part in this, since it defines the frame of reference under which individuals are used to working. However, one can also expect judges to take advantage of the freedom they now have to move beyond the well-established constraints of existing national procedure. The judicial body of this self-funding system will be strongly motivated to show its value.

A key part of the judicial system at the UPC will be that judges will, as a default position, be organised into panels of three (or more). Where validity is at issue, a technically qualified judge will join the panel to supplement the expertise of the so-called “legally qualified” judges. Of course, all judges will have legal experience, but the technically qualified judges will be chosen according to their scientific/engineering background, while the legally qualified judges will be drawn from the judiciary of the participating countries.

85 judges have been appointed so far, and 51 of these are technically qualified judges. These technical judges are drawn for the most part from private practice patent attorneys throughout the participating countries.

Unified Patent Court Structure (Multi-national)

Regional and local divisions at first instance will have an element of local character driven by the identities of the judges involved. However, the degree of local character will vary, in no small part because only the local divisions in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and France will sit with panels comprising two local judges. Elsewhere, a single local judge will be supplemented by (at least) two judges from a central pool.

Local Division with One Local Judge                                                                 

Local Divisions with Two Local Judges         

Central division

The central division is split into three parts, originally including London, United Kingdom, Paris, France, and Munich, Germany, although London is now likely to be replaced in due course by Milan, Italy. At present, however, it is only certain that Paris and Munich will be seats of the central division.

The legally qualified judges appointed to the Court of Appeal, which sits in Luxembourg, are as follows:

  • Ms Françoise Barutel (FR)
  • Mr Peter Blok (NL)
  • Mr Klaus Grabinski (DE)
  • Ms Emanuela Germano (IT)
  • Ms Patricia Rombach (DE)
  • Ms Rian Kalden (NL)
  • Ms Ingeborg Simonsson (SE)

The international judiciary of the UPC will have the opportunity to shape patent law in Europe for many years to come, and every move they make will be monitored closely for signs of how this may develop.