A recent interview of Sir Robin Jacob, Chairman of the UPC Advisory Committee, gives indications as to the procedure and timeline that the UPC will follow to select and appoint judges. This selection should start within two months, with the publication at the end of February/beginning of March 2016 of an announcement and online application.
In 2013 an initial call for expression was published and received over 1300 responses, a much higher number than expected. This was not a formal job application but “an initial assessment prior to the formal application process” which allowed the UPC Advisory Committee to identify 354 eligible legally qualified judges and 341 eligible technically qualified judges. Out of these candidate Judges, 183 required training and about 20 of them were sent to Budapest last year to learn about basic patent law. Candidates who applied to this first call of expression and new candidates are now invited to submit their application to the new formal recruitment process.
The new online application process should allow the Advisory Committee’s Human Resources and Training group to identify very quickly the legal, technical and languages expertise of the candidate judges and therefore facilitate the selection process. It is expected that about fifty legally and fifty technically qualified judges will be selected. The number of appointed judges will initially be kept small to match the expected workload. A pool of appointable candidates will nonetheless be on hand to allow the UPC to respond if needed to high numbers of cases.
The fact that most judges will be working part-time for the UPC raises however two issues. First under the UPCA, national judges are allowed to work part-time at the UPC but lawyers can only do so with special permission. This, as highlighted by Sir Robin Jacob, can be a problem for countries such as the UK which have a specific tradition of using lawyers as judges on a part-time basis. Moreover, some countries do not permit their judges to be part-time, and this will necessitate an amendment of national laws.