The German Patent System - The Dual Court System
In Germany, patent infringement disputes are first brought to the regional courts, which have ordinary jurisdictional authority. Twelve of these courts, distributed around the country, are certified to hear patent cases. These courts do not review the validity of a patent – rather whether an infringement has occurred. Appeals are heard by the Higher Regional Courts, whose judges have ample technical experience for understanding the technical issues at stake and are highly respected in Germany. The parties in these proceedings are represented by attorneys-at-law and are assisted by experienced patent attorneys.
In contrast, nullity proceedings are handled solely by the Federal Patent Court, located in Munich. The Federal Patent Court hears appeals against decisions of the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) and first instance invalidity claims. It has jurisdiction over granting, denial or withdrawal of industrial property rights. The parties in nullity proceedings are represented by qualified patent attorneys.
This dual-court system stems from the view that granting a patent or other industrial property right is an administrative act, whose revocation must lie in the hands of a non-civil law court. On the other hand, the question of whether an infringement has occurred is a matter of civil law between two opposing parties.