Address for service is no ground for recusal (requested too late anyhow)

Case No. O2014_013 ¦ Order of the Adminstrative Board of Judges of 09 June 2016 ¦ “Ausstandsbegehren”


HEADNOTE

Art. 49 CPC; forfeiture of the right to request recusal; substantiation of internal constellation of a group of companies; acting as address of service for the IPI is not a ground of recusal.

‘As soon as it has become aware’ has to be interpreted strictly; in no case the deadline can be longer than 10 days (r. 5, 6).

If the recusal is reasoned based on the relationship between companies of a group of companies, this relationship must be substantiated in detail (r. 7).

The fact that the judge or the judge’s law firm is acting as a purely administrative address of service for the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) is no ground of recusal (r. 7).


I have already reported on the interim measures in this matter on this Blog here and here. Now, we get a glimpse of what is going on in ordinary proceedings between Gilead Pharmasset LLC and AbbVie, Inc. Actually, the interim assessment of the reporting judge is awaited as the next procedural step.

The parties had been informed already on 05 March 2015 that Dr. Tobias BREMI had been appointed as reporting judge. With notification of 16 March 2016, the parties have been informed that the reporting judge will now establish his interim assessment. Only in reply to this notification, the defendant has informed the court that judge BREMI’s firm, Isler & Pedrazzini AG, represents the Swiss parts of the patents EP 2 079 726 (Gilead Connecticut, Inc.), EP 2 297 105 (Gilead Connecticut, Inc. and Genentech, Inc.), EP 2 611 790 (Gilead Connecticut, Inc. and Genentech, Inc.) and EP 2 611 798 (Gilead Connecticut, Inc. and Genentech, Inc). With reference to the decision BGE 139 III 433 of the Supreme Court (reported here), the defendant requested that judge BREMI shall recuse.

In first place, the Administrative Board of Judges assessed the timeliness of the request. A party that wishes to challenge a judge must file the corresponding request as soon as it has become aware of the reason for recusal; Art. 49 CPC. The FPC now held that any delay of more than 10 days is too late. Decisive is the point of time when the party has become aware or should have become aware when handling the matter with all due care. Subsequent to BGE 139 III 433, the FPC has provided detailed guidelines on how to search for potential grounds for recusal, hyperlinked on the website of the FPC where all judges are listed together with their employer in private practice or industry. A brief database search as outlined in these guidelines would immediately have resulted in at least one of the alleged patents. The FPC leaves no doubt that parties are expected to carry out this check immediately when being notified of the involvement of a certain judge:

Die Vornahme solcher Abfragen ist […] bei pflichtgemässer Aufmerksamkeit jeweils durchzuführen, sobald das Bundespatentgericht die Gerichtsbesetzung bekannt gibt.

Therefore, the order holds that the request clearly is not timely filed and any right to request recusal is forfeited.

But even if the request for recusal would have to be dealt with ex officio (as suggested in some literature), the result would be the same. Note that the plaintiff is Gilead Pharmasset, LLC, not Gilead Connecticut, Inc. No schematic approach in the assessment of an appearance of bias can be applied when connected undertakings are involved; see BGE 139 III 433, r. 2.1.6. It rather depends on the actual circumstances. It needs to be individually assessed whether the indirect relationship (via a connected undertaking) is too close, i.e. comparable to a direct relationship. The FPC makes clear that the mere representation before the Swiss patent office (IPI) is — at least in the present matter — limited to provide a Swiss address for service in case of notifications of loss of rights. It is however unclear whether or not any work on the merits of a case would ever be conducted. This cannot establish a ground of recusal right from the outset, unless specific circumstances indicate the contrary (r. 7):

[A]us der blossen Existenz einer solchen Vertretung, ohne Kenntnis der weiteren Umstände, [kann] nicht auf eine Beziehung zur betreffenden Partei geschlossen werden, die einen Ausstandsgrund darstellen könnte.

Endlich kommt dazu, dass sich im vorliegenden Fall die Vertretertätigkeit darauf beschränkt, als administrative Zustelladresse eine allfällige Rechtsverlustmitteilung des Amtes entgegenzunehmen und – unbearbeitet – weiterzuleiten. Ob die Kanzlei danach mit einer aktiven Vertretertätigkeit beauftragt wird, welche dann auch in Rechnung gestellt werden könnte, und welche einen Ausstandsgrund darstellen würde, ist völlig offen. Aber in dieser Situation als potentieller Beauftragter befindet sich eine Patentanwalts- (und auch Rechtsanwalts-) Kanzlei gegenüber allen potentiellen Klienten, sprich gegenüber allen im Patentbereich tätigen Gesellschaften oder Personen, welche als Auftraggeber in Frage kommen. Das kann von vornherein keinen Ausstandsgrund darstellen.

Reported by Martin WILMING

— BIBLIOGRAPHY —

Case No. O2014_013 ¦ Order of the Adminstrative Board of Judges of 09 June 2016 ¦ “Ausstandsbegehren”

Gilead Pharmasset LLC ./. AbbVie Inc.

Subject(s):

  • Request for recusal

Composition of the Administrative Board of Judges:

  • Dr. Dieter BRÄNDLE
  • Dr. Frank SCHNYDER
  • Dr. Ralph SCHLOSSER

Court Clerk:

  • Susanne ANDERHALDEN

Representative(s) of Plaintiff:

Representative(s) of Defendant:

— FULL TEXT OF THE ORDER —

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