The FPC has published the 2014 Annual Report earlier this week; it is available in English, German, French and Italian language. The English version is incorporated hereinbelow. All the statistics are pretty much self-explanatory, and I will thus only highlight some of my personal take-away messages.
Settlement by compromise
The FPC had aimed at a high rate of settlements by compromise from the very beginning. A ratio of 50% was estimated already back in May 2012 (see Neue Zürcher Zeitung). However, an extremely high 89% share of the main proceedings had been settled by compromise in 2013. Maybe surprised by its own success, the FPC guessed that this was an exception and reiterated the estimation of 50% in the 2013 Annual Report:
This 89% ratio of cases settled by compromise will probably remain an exception. […] The Federal Patent Court expects […] a settlement by compromise in around 50% of the cases, […]. […], it is unlikely that an average ratio exceeding the 50% threshold can be achieved over time.
In 2014, the 50% estimate is again exceeded by far. An impressive 85% share of the main proceedings has been settled by compromise last year. Even in summary proceedings, the share of settlements by compromise is remarkably high (50%).
Fig. 1: Share of cases settled by compromise in 2014 [%]
Despite the still limited data basis after only 3 years of operation, outstandingly high ratios of settlement by compromise tend to be the rule rather than the exception. Consequently, the FPC has re-set the estimate:
The Federal Patent Court therefore strives to reach mutually acceptable compromises in its handling of cases. […] The Federal Patent Court initially expected that this approach would result in a settlement by compromise in around 50% of the cases, […]. […], the Federal Patent Court now feels that it is possible to maintain the ratio more or less at current levels. This is fairly remarkable considering that similar patent courts in Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom rarely reach such an outcome. Over time, such outcomes achieved by the Federal Patent Court will have a positive impact on the number of incoming cases.
It will indeed be interesting to see how the share of settlements by compromise — and the impact on the number of incoming case numbers — develops over time.
Case numbers in main proceedings
Let’s have a look at the regular proceedings only. How are the case numbers developing?
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Fig. 2: Case numbers 2012-2014 (regular proceedings)
The number of incoming cases is represented by the red bar in Fig. 2 above. Note that 32 of the 43 incoming cases in 2012 had been transferred from cantonal courts. Therefore, the very high figure in 2012 was clearly an exception. But 2013 and 2014 are quite comparable: In 2013, only one of the 23 incoming cases had been transferred from a cantonal court, and apparently none in 2014. A significant decrease of incoming cases by more than 30% is to be noted (2013: 22; 2014: 17), but this may well be within a regular fluctuation range.
On the other hand, the FPC is no longer in its start-up phase. As a consequence, it could settle more cases (regular proceedings) in 2014 than in the years before; see the green bar in Fig. 2 above.
Strong emphasis on chemistry
About 50% of all cases received by the FPC require assistance from chemists, and some of these cases are highly complex. On the other hand, only 7 of the 25 non-permanent judges with a technical training are chemists. Therefore, the FPC currently seeks three additional non-permanent judges specialised in chemistry.
Reported by Martin WILMING
— ANNUAL REPORT 2014 —