Legal validity proceedings - A German specialty?
In Germany, the so-called ‘principle of bifurcation’ exists with regard to property rights: the enforcement of property rights and the examination of the legal validity of the property right are carried out in separate procedures. While the civil courts (Regional Court or Higher Regional Court) have jurisdiction over the enforcement of property rights, proceedings relating to legal validity such as patent opposition proceedings, patent nullity proceedings and utility model cancellation proceedings are conducted before the Patent Office or the Federal Patent Court, a specialist court in Munich.
What to know about the Federal German Patent Court?
In contrast to the situation in ordinary courts such as Regional Courts or Higher Regional Courts, the judges who work in the Federal Patent Court have basic technical training. The judges are usually former patent examiners from the German Patent and Trademark Office or the European Patent Office. As patent attorneys, we worked at the Federal Patent Court for six months as part of our training so we are familiar with the thought processes and working methods of the judges. Thus, we are also able to be proactive and to obtain the best possible results for our clients in court proceedings relating to legal validity at the Federal Patent Court.
Legal validity proceedings for trademarks and designs?
For trademarks and designs, the applicable rules are somewhat different. In these cases, the examination of legal validity after registration is sometimes done by the civil courts (Regional Court or Higher Regional Court), among other reasons because competition-law aspects are often also relevant to the examination of the legal validity of trademarks. Nevertheless, proceedings for ascertaining the legal validity of trademarks and designs before the Federal Patent Court also exist – these allow trademarks or designs to be cancelled if earlier registered rights exist.