Posted: September 29th, 2017
A year has passed since Sweden unveiled its latest specialist courts – the Patent and Market Court and the Patent and Market Court of Appeal. It is time to take a closer look at how the new Patent and Market Court has fared in its first year of operation.
By Erik Ficks, Roschier
More cases than expected
The court was established on 1 September 2016 as a special division of the Stockholm District Court. The court exclusively deals with disputes concerning intellectual property rights (such as copyright, trademarks, and patents), as well as competition law and marketing law matters.
One of the main reasons for establishing this new court was to shorten the amount of time it takes from filing to final judgment in intellectual property cases. Another reason was to ensure judges that possessed relevant expertise were in place to preside over these specialist cases. Particularly in respect of patent cases, Sweden has suffered from relatively time-consuming judicial proceedings in comparison with other major patent jurisdictions in Europe (such as Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and France). It has not been uncommon for patent cases to take about three years from filing to first instance judgment, even though interim measures (such as preliminary injunctions) have been handled relatively quickly. A fresh start was therefore no doubt sought after, which is also apparent on a closer look at this first year in action.
To say that the court is popular is an understatement. The court estimated that it would hear approximately 142 cases in total during its first year. The actual number was 160, which is almost 15% more than expected.
In terms of patent cases alone, the court estimated that it would hear 24 cases during its first year. The actual number was 37, which is a record year for patent cases. It may be noted that this author’s firm, Roschier, acted as legal counsel in around 30% of those 37 cases, giving us a well-deserved second place among all legal counsel represented.
Significant efficiency gains
So, how effective is the new court? It would be a tough task to read anything too specific into the proceedings after just one year, but by way of example: around 70% of the patent cases in which a judgment was rendered during this year were filed less than two years earlier. Also, interim measures were in most cases imposed within three months from filing, i.e. including the time needed for service on the other party. Depending on the complexity of the relevant dispute, most preparatory hearings were also held within a year, with the main hearing scheduled to take place shortly afterwards. One patent case even spanned for only about five months from filing to judgment. It can safely be said that most of the patent cases now pending in the court will probably have been decided by this time next year.
In summary, it has been a successful first year for the Swedish Patent and Market Court. It has proven to be popular, efficient, fit for purpose and safe. Together with the fact that a much more stringent approach has been taken with respect to requests for extensions of time, this development clearly shows that, even in joint infringement and invalidity proceedings, it can be expected that a first instance judgment will be rendered in patent cases within one to two years. This is a development that puts Sweden among the most efficient jurisdictions in Europe for resolving patent cases.