UPC-series: The technically qualified judges of the UPC

The UPC functions with 105 in total perfectly qualified judges, with great expertise in patents. 37 of them are legally qualified judges and the remaining 68 are technically qualified judges. All the judges are nationals of the Contracting Member States and speak at least one official language of the EPO.

In the Local and Regional Divisions, the presence of a technical judge is optional, and it depends on relevant request by the parties (Art. 8 para.5 UPCA). In the Central Divisions the panels consists of two legally qualified judges and one technically qualified judge (Art. 8 para.6 UPCA). The panel of the Court of Appeal consists of three legally qualified judges and two technically qualified (Art. 9 para.1 UPCA).

Technically qualified judges should have proven expertise in the technology field that are familiar with and the correspondent university degree, as well as knowledge of civil and patent law. According to recent statistics, more than the half of these technically qualified judges work as private patent attorneys or as in-house patent attorneys. The majority of the judges is familiar with mechanical engineering. Other relevant fields are electricity, chemistry and pharmaceuticals, physics, and biotechnology. Technically qualified judges are not experts only in one particular technology field, so some of them for example may have expertise both in electricity and physics.

The concept of technically qualified judges is not new in some countries. For instance, in Austria technical judges (usually patent attorneys) are part of the panel before the proceedings in Commercial Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, as appointed by the law. Same stands for Germany. It is then completely logical the fact that the 33% of all technically qualified judges is of German nationality. Other countries follow with France and Italy having the biggest representation.