Insights from the UPC Court of Appeal – A Firsthand Experience

Welcome to another edition of our UPC blog, where we look into the practical experiences and insights from the Unified Patent Court. Today, I am pleased to share reflections from our recent participation in our first oral proceedings before the Court of Appeal at the UPC, along with my esteemed colleague and fellow UPC representative, Niels Schuh.

Conduct of the Proceedings
The proceedings were notably structured and handled by three legally qualified judges, including the President of the Court of Appeal, Judge Grabinski. The President introduced the matter succinctly, ensuring that the hearing remained focused and efficient. Both Niels and I observed the judges' commitment to a thorough yet concise discussion of all pertinent issues, reflecting their intent to avoid unnecessarily prolonging the session.

Duration and Discussion
The hearing was concise, wrapping up in about two hours, including a brief intermission. This break – presumably - allowed the judges to deliberate on a new submission filed on the day before the hearing and provided the parties a chance to respond to each other's arguments subsequently. Such a structured approach, combined with the panel's keen interest in the matter at hand, particularly regarding the composition of the bench, was enlightening.

Judicial Interactions
An interesting aspect was the interaction dynamics among the judges. While Judge Grabinski led the proceedings, there was a moment when another judge intervened to seek clarification on a point that had evolved from the pleadings. This interaction underscored the panel's diligence in ensuring they fully understood the arguments, potentially impacting their decision.

Procedural Specifics
The appeal hearing focused primarily on legal issues, and the panel was composed exclusively of legally qualified judges. The absence of technically qualified judges was noted and is pending further clarity, as there have been a few orders affirming this approach, but its appropriateness and legality remains under discussion.

Breaks and Deliberations
The inclusion of a mid-hearing break for judicial deliberation is less common in German practice but proved reasonable due to the last-minute submissions. This break underscores the court's adaptive strategies in managing complex cases effectively.

Decision Announcement
Unlike some national practices where decisions might be announced immediately post-hearing, the UPC Court of Appeal did not announce their decision during the hearing. The decision will be communicated in writing shortly, aligning with the UPC’s procedural norms which aim for swift resolution, particularly in procedural matters.

Closing Thoughts
Today’s experience reaffirmed the UPC’s commitment to streamlined and effective judicial processes. The clear and decisive management of the hearing by President Grabinski, coupled with the active engagement of the panel, ensured that all arguments were adequately presented and considered.
Our participation in these proceedings not only provided valuable insights into the operational dynamics of the UPC but also highlighted the nuanced differences between UPC practices and those of national courts like Germany's. As we await the written decision, we are reminded of the evolving jurisprudence at the UPC and its implications for patent litigation across Europe.

Key Takeaways from UPC Court of Appeal Proceedings:

  • Efficient Structure and Conduct: The UPC Court of Appeal proceedings are characterized by their structured and concise nature, ensuring that discussions remain focused and effective, with judges actively facilitating a balanced exploration of the issues.
  • Judicial Interaction and Clarity: The active participation of judges in seeking clarifications and ensuring comprehensive understanding of the arguments emphasizes the court's commitment to a thorough review process.
  • Adaptability and Formality: The proceedings highlighted the UPC's adaptability, evidenced by the inclusion of breaks for deliberation on new submissions.