Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Munich I Regional Court reports new record number of patent infringement actions in 2021: 262, an increase of 30% over 2020 (202 cases)

There has been some confusion out there, but thanks to canonical information from the Munich I Regional Court's press office I'm able to report that 262 patent infringement cases were filed with the Landgericht München I last year, marking a steep increase (by almost precisely 30%) over the previous year (202 cases).

In response to that trend, the Munich court created a third patent law division last year. I attended the 44th Civil Chamber's inaugural hearing. There have meanwhile been various reassignments.

Dusseldorf still has a larger caseload, a very significant part of which is attributable to cases involving small and medium-sized enterprises (such as cigarette paper manufacturers), while the courts in Munich and Mannheim are particularly popular for patent--quite often standard-essential patent (SEP)--assertions against large companies (smartphone makers, car makers, telecommunications carriers, game publishers, and so forth).

Codec (encoder/decoder) caes are one category of SEP matters for which Dusseldorf has traditionally been popular. Currently, some MPEG LA licensors are suing Samsung there. VoiceAge EVS, however, has achieved a 100% hit rate in Mannheim and Munich.

Hamburg is a distant fourth with but a fraction of Mannheim's caseload, but occasionally also gets interesting cases. The remaining German patent infringement venues (Berlin, Braunschweig, Frankfurt, and Nuremberg) are, at best, "also-rans" for the time being. Unlike in the United States, where patent cases can be filed with any of the 94 federal district courts (and can then be heard by any federal judge), only seven German courts handle patent infringement actions in the first instance (with specialized divisions focusing on patent law).

All in all, Germany's share of European patent cases still appears to be growing. In my personal observation, that makes a whole lot of sense, though I would encourage patent holders looking for additional enforcement venues in Europe to give consideration to Spain, particularly the Juzgado de lo mercantil no. 5 in Barcelona (Barcelona Commercial Court V), which is a rocket docket and where the standard applied to requests for injunctive relief is comparable to Germany (without the so-called injunction gap, as infringement and validity are adjudicated at the same time). Nokia and InterDigital have already brought lawsuits there.

Europe as a whole is likely to experience significant growth in the number of patent infringement cases when the Unified Patent Court (UPC) commences its operation next year. Judicial appointments should become known fairly soon. If the UPC appointed a number of German judges proportionate to the jurisdiction's current popularity with patent plaintiffs, that would yield the best results for the new patent judiciary, which during a multi-year transitional period "competes" with national courts (patent holders can even opt out of the UPC system for certain patents). But with Germany being so overwhelmingly strong in this field, chances are that a disproportionate number of UPC judges will hail from other countries--a price to pay to get a pan-European off the ground. Plaintiffs will likely prefer German venues for their UPC cases as well, as the judicial philosophy of German UPC courts of first instance will likely be fairly consistent with that of the country's regional courts.

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