Stephanie Zöllner takes over as head of the patent senate at the Higher Regional Court Hamburg

Stephanie Zöllner is leaving the 27th civil chamber of the Hamburg Regional Court to chair the 3rd civil senate of the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg, starting in September. Zöllner succeeds Michael Schmidt, who is retiring at the end of August.

The senate is responsible for intellectual property appeals and in particular patent proceedings. Zöllner is considered by many to be Hamburg’s best-known and most experienced patent judge.

Stephanie Zöllner, Patent, Higher Regional Court Hamburg

Stephanie Zollner

The civil courts of Germany’s second largest city are best known for their intellectual property and media law litigation. Indeed, the courts of Hamburg hear significantly fewer patent cases than in Düsseldorf, Munich and Mannheim.

Nevertheless, Hamburg is also the fourth busiest patent court in Germany. In 2021, 35 new patent cases were filed with the Hamburg Regional Court, an increase of 9% compared to the previous year.

As a result, Hamburg won the tender to host the fourth German local chamber of the UPC.

Find a successor

There are two patent chambers in the regional court, with the 15th civil chamber also hearing patent cases. However, the 27th Civil Chamber, which Stephanie Zöllner has led since April 2010, is the more popular of the two. The court has not yet appointed a successor for Zöllner. The search should continue until the end of the year.

A successor will initially be sought from among the current presidents of the regional court. If no candidate expresses an interest in patent cases, the application process will be open to all judges. Until then, Arne Führer will temporarily lead the 27th Civil Chamber as deputy presiding judge.

The board has recently heard important patent cases. In the dispute between Sonos and Google over consumer electronics control technology, for example, the chamber awarded a PI against tech giant Google, which Sonos later withdrew. The chamber also heard the dispute between Ceva and Bayer over a veterinary drug for pigs and is also hearing claims in the eye surgery case between Alcon and AMO.

Stéphanie Zöllner at the UPC?

The news of Zöllner’s transfer to the Higher Regional Court comes at a time when the selection of UPC judges is in full swing. Although she has not officially confirmed her candidacy, it is considered certain that she – like other Hamburg patent judges – applied for a position as a judge at the new European Patent Court.

The appointment of UPC judges is expected in the coming weeks. The UPC Board of Directors established the nominees in early July. However, the names are not yet public as the UPC must now notify applicants. All candidates must accept the conditions and submit to a medical examination.

Only when all contestants have signed their contracts, insiders told JUVE Patent, will the final list of UPC judges be released.

Many companies and their lawyers view the selection of judges as an important preparatory step. They hope to have as many experienced patent judges as possible at the UPC, such as Stephanie Zöllner. A part-time post at the UPC does not conflict with the post of president of the patent chamber.

German courts are changing

This changing of the guard in Hamburg is the latest in a number of recent developments in German patent courts. In 2021, the Munich Regional Court established a third patent chamber. In May this year, the same court also saw a change in the presiding judges.

In addition, Lars Meinhardt became presiding judge of the Patent Senate of the Higher Regional Court in Munich at the beginning of the year.

Elna M. Lemons