Local Division Mannheim separates proceedings in a multi-party patent dispute

In a recent decision issued on May 6, 2024, by the Local Division Mannheim of the Unified Patent Court (UPC), a significant procedural action was taken concerning the lawsuit filed by Panasonic Holdings Corporation against multiple Xiaomi entities over European Patent EP 3 096 315. The court's decision (ORD_25617/2024) to separate the proceedings concerning certain defendants underlines the complexities of multi-party litigation in patent disputes, particularly those involving international entities. Closely related to this decision is a Procedural order of the Hamburg Division of the UPC, as reported.

Background of the Case

Panasonic initiated proceedings against several Xiaomi subsidiaries located across different jurisdictions including China, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. Notably, the service of the complaint had not yet been successfully completed for Xiaomi Inc., Beijing Xiaomi Mobile Software Co. Ltd., Xiaomi H.K. Limited, and Xiaomi Communications Co., Ltd. The court’s decision to sever the proceedings was driven by practical considerations related to the effective service of the complaint and the subsequent legal representation of the defendants.

Decision Analysis

The Mannheim Division decided to separate the proceedings for the defendants located in China and Hong Kong from those in Europe. The decision was primarily based on the acknowledgment that the service of process according to the Hague Service Convention could considerably delay the proceedings due to the complexities of international service requirements. The court aimed to prevent such delays from affecting the other parties involved who are already appropriately represented and have been served.

This procedural move is especially crucial in maintaining the efficiency of judicial processes and ensuring that separate issues are addressed appropriately without unnecessary delays for other parties. 

Key Takeaways

  • Procedural Efficiency: The decision underscores the UPC's commitment to procedural efficiency and fairness in handling complex international patent litigation, ensuring that unresolved issues in service and representation do not hinder the progress of proceedings for other parties.
  • Impact of International Service Requirements: It highlights the challenges and delays associated with international litigation, especially concerning the service of process under international conventions like the Hague Service Convention. 
  • Strategic Implications for Litigants: The ruling offers an essential precedent for future cases involving multiple defendants across different jurisdictions, suggesting that courts may opt to separate proceedings to deal with procedural issues more effectively. 
    This decision not only facilitates a more streamlined handling of the case against Xiaomi’s European subsidiaries but also sets a procedural precedent for similar future cases where parties are spread across multiple jurisdictions.