20 March 2012

Federal Government continues on all Levels to advocate Munich as Seat of the Central Division

As recently reported on the ksnh::law blog in an article titled "German Federal Government Strongly Advocates Munich as Seat of Central Divison of EU Unified Patent Court" (Deutsche Fassung hier), a written parliamentary question in the German Parliament/Bundestag by MP Doris Barnett (Social Democrats) gave the Federal Government the opportunity to take a public position on the efforts undertaken to bring the seat of the Central Division of a future Unified Patent Court to Germany (question 50 of Drucksache 17/8723; in German). Dr Max Stadler, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Justice under Minster Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (both Liberals), answered the question as follows (cf. Plenarprotokoll 17/161, page 1919 onwards; in German):

[...] The Federal Government strongly advocates in the negotiations that the seat of the Central Division will be in Munich. As the European capital city of patents Munich is best suited for the headquarters of the Patent Court. The European Patent Office, which will grant EU patents, has its headquarters here. The required technical skills of judges and attorneys/lawyers are available here in particular. France has also applied for the seat (Paris). The overall agreement largely depends on the seat of the Central Division. The Federal Government will continue on all levels to advocate Munich as the seat of the Central Division.

The decentralized structure of the Court provides that patent infringement cases are brought before Local or Regional Division residing in the Member States. It can be taken for granted that the Local Divisions located in Germany will have a significant proportion of the total volume of litigations.
The German version of this posting can be found on ksnh::jur under the headline "Bundesregierung kämpft für München als Sitz der Zentralabteilung der EU-Patentgerichtsbarkeit".

While the German government claimed the seat of a European Patent Court already in the times of the "Community Patent Convention", London wa put on the agenda only upon intervention of the UK legal profession and Paris was considered a compromise location to prevent a deadlock. However, as has been  summarised recently “few other EU countries are happy with a Munich seat because the city is already the home to EPO“, “Britain lacks goodwill and allies“, and “French inflexibility has been damaging“ (see here). 

As analysed in the article "Munich or London? The new EU Patent System will now have to be saved by Angela Merkel and David Cameron personally", the Germany government's chances to succeed in this game depend on political dynamics, the current distribution of political (and economical) power within the Union, and Ms Merkel's personal determination to this issue - which factors might not necessarily argue against a German seat. In the end, however, this issue may well be decided by the traditional EU horse trading negotiation strategy, as the seat issue may be considered a perfect negotiable quantity in more important political projects, such as controversal measures suggested to overcome the historic financial and debt crisis.

Even though there were some speculations that an agreement may be achieved at the informal financial Council meeting on 30 January 2012 in Brussels (see tweets here and here), it wasn’t a big surprise that the Heads of Government have had enought to do with stimulating growth in Europe and finalizing/promoting the ESM and fiscal compact. As to the patent issues, an official statement at least clarified that
The participating Member States commit to reaching at the latest in June 2012 a final agreement on the last outstanding issue in the patent package.