Switzerland

The Swiss patent landscape is abuzz with several threads of conversation, and one in particular has really got the country’s practitioners talking. The Swiss Federal Council is taking steps to modernise its patent examination procedure; and while this initiative is still in its early stages – the consultation period only closed in February 2021 – the potential amendments should transform the filing process. At the moment, the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property does not examine whether inventions are novel and inventive, which weakens the validity of Swiss patents on the international stage. The proposed changes would see applications examined for all patentability requirements, aligning the process with global practices and enhancing legal certainty. While it is already possible to apply for a fully examined European patent at the EPO and extend the protection to Switzerland, the new system should be less costly and time consuming, and thus more attractive for local SMEs and individual inventors. Alongside these changes, a cheaper alternative will be introduced by way of a utility model, which will be granted without substantive examination, will have a lifespan of 10 years and will also qualify for the newly introduced ‘patent box’ regime. It is clear that Switzerland is making significant efforts to nurture its local start-up community and foster innovation – as evidenced by its 10th year in the number one spot on WIPO’s Global Innovation Index.

Firms: litigation

Firms: prosecution

Firms: transactions

Bär & Karrer

One of Switzerland’s premier transactional outfits, Bär & Karrer provides services in the country’s three main languages and is the preferred choice for multinationals anxious to get high-value deals across the line. For example, it recently advised listed chemicals and biotechnology corporation Lonza Group on the Sfr4.2 billion sale of its speciality ingredients business to Bain Capital and Cinven. IP division lead and life sciences group co-captain Markus Wang played a crucial role in that matter; he also advised Syngenta Crop Protection on its acquisition of a production facility from Novartis Pharma Schweizerhalle. In the words of one peer: “Markus is just a charm to work with – he is responsive, constructive, comes up with pragmatic solutions and always keeps budgets and business perspectives in mind.”

E Blum & Co AG

Market-leading patent prosecution firm E Blum & Co is “full of fantastic and pragmatic attorneys who know how to handle complex cases and form great partnerships with lawyers. If you want the best, you go to E Blum”. Established in 1878, it has its roots deeply embedded in the legal landscape and possesses a wealth of technical know-how. Electronics and software ace Kurt Sutter is “detail oriented, tactically astute and definitely one of the most prominent practitioners in the field”. He serves as a part-time judge at the Swiss Federal Patent Court along with Regula Rüedi, who is regularly sought out for expert opinions and litigation support. “Her pleadings are extremely persuasive and she explains complex technologies really well,” comments one associate. “She is super-client focused too, and always strives to find cost-effective solutions.” Joining them in the guide this year is pharmaceutical specialist Claudia Bibus: “Claudia is wonderful to work with – extremely sharp, with all the expertise you could wish for.”

FMP Fuhrer Marbach & Partners

Bern-based commercial set-up FMP Fuhrer Marbach & Partners enjoys a superb reputation thanks to the resonant performances it puts in in heated disputes. Its business-savvy lawyers think long term and act efficiently to bring about positive outcomes for clients. “A household name for litigation matters” and “an excellent lawyer”, Peter Widmer has decades of experience and is a vital asset in any contentious scenario.

Hepp Wenger Ryffel AG 

“Hands down the best patent attorney firm in Switzerland”, Hepp Wenger Ryffel is home to some of the most distinguished practitioners in the country: “They are reliable, precise and follow every legal development, both at home and across Europe, which means you can bounce ideas off them; the collaboration is exceptional.” A stand-out for his work in the medical technology field, Christoph Müller “has an incredibly sharp understanding of the technical issues, thinks strategically and never loses sight of the bigger picture. He communicates complex technical issues in a way that is easy to understand, even for those unfamiliar with the field”. With an affinity for biochemistry and the life sciences, Martin Wilming is “quick, responsive and a creative thinker, with an outstanding feel for clients’ commercial interests. He is also an influential member of the community – his IP blog is highly regarded by everyone you meet”. He and Andreas Welch recently coordinated the worldwide patent applications for a listed biotechnology company. “Highly skilled, efficient and a great team player, Andreas is also my first choice for litigation support,” enthuses one peer. The praise continues to flow in for mechanical engineering ace Susanna Ruder: “She impresses with her legal skills and provides excellent services when drafting and filing vital applications. Her empathy, professionalism and attention to detail make her a fantastic asset. She is not only a nice person, but also a reliable, down-to-earth attorney.”

Homburger AG 

Paid-up members of the Swiss patent litigation elite, Homburger’s lawyers have been putting in dazzling performances in major life sciences disputes of late. Highlights include enforcing Illumina’s sequencing-by-synthesis patents before the Federal Patent Court against the BGI/MGI Group and representing the same in multi-patent enforcement proceedings in a trans-border context. It also secured a landmark judgment in defending Sandoz against an enforcement action brought by AstraZeneca. Taking the lead on all three is “first-class litigator” Andri Hess: “He has an immense understanding of the law, always looks into the details and presents well-founded solutions and fantastic arguments.” IP and IT practice head Georg Rauber keeps a cool head in high-stakes disputes and artfully shepherds complex deals over the finish line.

IPrime Rentsch Kaelin AG 

A newcomer to the IAM Patent 1000 this year, IPrime Legal is a nimble boutique with a lot to offer. Its technically diverse patent attorneys and technology experts work hand in glove with a seasoned troop of business lawyers and litigators to provide a top-notch service that not only protects innovations, but defends and commercialises them too. With Rudolf A Rentsch leading the line, the side is ideally placed to handle complex infringement proceedings that transcend borders, especially in the United States, China and Japan. Computers, telecommunications and software are his metiers. Fellow ICT specialist Thomas Kretschmer brings abundant experience to the table, having previously spent almost two decades at leading multinational corporations. He understands the pressures faced by in-house counsel, translates their needs into finely drafted applications and sees them through to grant.

Isler & Pedrazzini AG

Isler & Pedrazzini’s finely tuned commercial service gives start-ups and industry heavyweights alike the confidence they need to innovate, safe in the knowledge that their creations will receive the best possible protection and that a dedicated squadron is on hand to enforce those rights when necessary. Tobias Bremi, Michael Liebetanz and Natalia Clerc support businesses flawlessly. “Absolutely perfect for chemistry instructions”, Bremi is “one of the best in the business. He knows how to predict whether an argument will win in court” – which comes as no surprise, given that he sits as second ordinary judge at the Federal Patent Court. Physics maestro Liebtanz has a hawkish eye for detail and drafts beautifully. Clerc leverages a unique understanding of internal systems and processes, gained through a stint in Haas Laser Systems’ R&D department, when advising clients on their long-term goals.

Kasser Schlosser Attorneys at Law

With Ralph Schlosser on deck, Lausanne-based commercial outfit Kasser Schlosser Avocats is a fantastic choice for complex disputes. The firm’s linguistic capabilities are also a major plus, as fluency in German and French means that its practitioners can appear in all forums across the country. A “brilliant lawyer” with expertise across the IP spectrum and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the law, Schlosser frequently makes the difference in must-win litigation: “He has a business-oriented mindset, a hands-on approach and an ability to communicate complicated processes in a structured manner, which benefits the patent attorneys he works with, as well as his clients.”

Lenz & Staehelin

“Super-experienced, great to team up with and extremely well organised”, Lenz & Staehelin is hailed as “among the best of the best”. The full-service firm is active in almost every technical sector, but really hits its stride on headline-grabbing pharmaceutical patent disputes. For example, two of its leading lights – Thierry Calame and Lara Dorigo – recently acted for Mepha/Teva against AstraZeneca in nullity proceedings concerning multiple patents which went all the way to the Federal Supreme Court. Highly regarded both domestically and globally, Calame is “an excellent lawyer with a great understanding of underlying technologies. Everything he does is delivered to an outstanding quality and is always on time, even with tight deadlines”. Dorigo also receives high praise: “When you see Lara work and the arguments she presents, you can tell that she really understands the technology. She is responsive and thorough in her approach, thinks quickly and is a lovely person too.” Recently elected to the partnership, Peter Ling is another vital contributor to the set’s booming contentious practice and recently represented Abbott Laboratories alongside Calame in patent infringement proceedings against Edwards Lifesciences. “Something that sets Peter apart is his empathy and ability to assess where each party stands, its interests and needs, and fit all this into a legal strategy. He is sharp in his analyses, grasps technicalities really quickly and is always focused on providing value to clients and the team as a whole. Overall, Peter is just really impressive.”

MLL Meyerlustenberger Lachenal Froriep Ltd 

A go-to for patent disputes in Switzerland, Meyerlustenberger Lachenal has “an extremely strong team which makes valuable contributions to technical analyses and takes a creative approach to litigation strategy. They do a fantastic job in the pharmaceutical industry, especially for innovator companies, as they understand the local regulatory environment and its interface with the law exceptionally well”. Testament to this is its recent representation of Gilead in a widely publicised, multi-jurisdictional dispute against Mepha concerning Gilead’s SPC. Here, the innovative and compelling arguments presented by Simon Holzer and Michael Ritscher resulted in the successful defence and enforcement of the SPC, making Switzerland the only country in which this has been achieved. “One of the country’s finest”, Holzer is a first choice for life sciences cases: “He is client driven, committed and thoughtful, gets long-lasting and reliable results and is great to work with.” Consummate litigator Ritscher “knows everyone worth knowing on the local and European markets. He is accessible, easy to collaborate with and his guidance is always carefully considered”. The pair also link up with Kilian Schärli and Ulrike Ciesla to represent AstraZeneca across all of its Swiss patent matters. “Young, dynamic and bright” lawyer Schärli is “one of the best team mates you could think of. He is a focused and clear-cut adviser who always keeps clients’ business goals in mind”. Patent attorney Ciesla brings extra strength and depth to the firm’s offering: “She rapidly gets an insight into each case she works on, researches comprehensively and provides thorough advice on the best route forward, along with its pros and cons. She gives businesses the confidence and motivation to succeed.” The firm also recently welcomed Christian Fischer to the fold. An authority in the telecommunications sector, he was previously head of patents at Swisscom: “He is great at pinpointing weaknesses and inaccuracies when analysing technical arguments, presents arguments in a way that is easy to follow and does not shy away from challenging opinions that are not backed by clear facts.”

Niederer Kraft Frey

The polished professionals at Zurich-based Niederer Kraft Frey have an intuitive grasp of the business of patents and know what levers to pull to get companies superb returns on the investments they put into realising and protecting their inventions. It is currently advising Partners Group – one of the largest private market investment managers in the world – and recently helped Capvis to acquire a majority stake in Xovis, a leading producer of 3D sensors. Instrumental to both matters is Nicolas Birkhäuser, whose creative take on structuring deals sits well with C-suite executives in need of smart licensing approaches. Key clients include Procter & Gamble and Navistar International Corporation.

Pestalozzi Attorneys at Law

Leading players in the regulated industries flock to Pestalozzi in their droves: the agile commercial law firm is home to a cracking dispute resolution practice and regularly gets deals across the line for pharmaceutical, biotech, medical devices companies. It also enjoys a sterling reputation in the IT and telecommunications industries, thanks to the efforts of Thomas Legler and Michèle Burnier. Legler heads up the arbitration team, sits as a deputy judge at the Federal Patent Court and knows all the right plays to bring contentious proceedings to a swift and successful close, both domestically and internationally. Also based in Geneva, Burnier is the resident distribution, licensing and R&D guru, with valuable ancillary expertise in e-commerce, data protection and unfair competition law.

Rentsch Partner Ltd

Pioneering boutique Rentsch Partner stands out from the crowd for its comprehensive approach to intellectual property. Combining the talents of both patent attorneys and lawyers under one roof, it can cover all bases for its high-flying technology and pharmaceutical clientele. The hardest hitters include Christian Hilti and Demian Stauber, who bring the heat in big-ticket litigation. A calm but commanding presence in the courtroom, Hilti has over three decades of experience and the market recognition to show for it, having chalked up many a landmark victory along the way. Stauber is lauded for his versatility: his sweet spot is at the confluence of IP, IT and contract law, where he crafts persuasive arguments for leading technology companies embroiled in disputes and assists small start-ups with their software agreements. On the prosecution front, Dany Vogel, Alfred Köpf, Louis Lagler and Andrea Carreira set the standard of excellence. Software instructions and computer-implemented inventions are meat and drink to the “super-sharp” Vogel; while Köpf devises “long-lasting and reliable strategies” in the life sciences and mechanical industries. An authority in the electrical and optical fields, Lagler “drafts patents efficiently and with a fantastic technical understanding, all while targeting a broad claim. He is responsive, reliable and great at coordinating multi-jurisdictional filings”. Joining them in the guide this year is Carreira, a prime choice for litigation support. The trained chemist relishes the nitty-gritty of complex matters and has the determination to take her cases all the way.

Schaad Balass Menzl & Partner AG

A dynamic firm with a passion for new technologies, Schaad Balass Menzl & Partner makes it its mission to partner up with the businesses it serves: its attorneys keep clients looped in on all developments and act as an extension to in-house teams. The life sciences is a happy hunting ground: pre-eminent organic chemist Cornelia Hoffmann has worked in the field for two decades and is regularly sought out by the country’s top litigators for technical support. “A brilliant and collaborative attorney”, Christoph Fraefel is the resident biochemist on deck and was recently appointed as president of the Association of Freelance European and Swiss Patent Attorneys. Making his debut in the guide this year is Theodore Choi, who brings ample physics, semiconductor and EPO expertise to the mix.

Schellenberg Wittmer

“An impressive firm with equally outstanding practitioners”, Schellenberg Wittmer gives “concise, clear and timely legal advice without breaking the bank”. The side regularly receives instructions from high-calibre companies in need of robust representation in fraught contentious scenarios and licensing negotiations. For example, it is currently representing Hetronic International – a leading manufacturer of industrial-use remote controls – in several disputes; regularly assists Philip Morris with its R&D agreements; and advised WorldConnect on the sale of 80% of its shares to Cellularline for Sfr15.8 million. All three matters have been masterminded by Philipp Groz, whose down-to-earth style and straightforward arguments frequently carry the day. Of counsel Peter Georg Picht utilises an expansive toolkit to resolve disputes; with a rich academic background, he draws on a wealth of IP and competition law knowledge to bring about successful outcomes. The side also strengthened its life sciences capabilities in late 2020 when it brought Lorenza Ferrari Hofer on board from Pestalozzi. Qualified in England, Wales and Switzerland, she is a fine choice for litigation and transactions mandates involving international elements.

ThomannFischer 

Commercial law outfit ThomannFischer is a premier destination for wall-to-wall IP support, thanks to its A-to-Z prosecution, litigation and transactional offering. In the words of one client: “They fulfil their brief to the highest possible standard. They quickly derive the central points of the invention at hand and skilfully implement any comments to finalise the work product in short turnaround times.” Department captain Fabian Leimgruber has a pristine track record at the EPO: “His deep legal and technical understanding of emerging technologies fills clients with comfort; he has rightfully earned his reputation as a first-rate prosecutor.”

TIMES Attorneys

The darling of generic pharmaceutical companies, TIMES Attorneys combines sophisticated industry insight with exceptional trial skills and a commitment to results to come out on top in commercially consequential cases. It recently prevailed for Develco Pharma in complex patent litigation proceedings against Mundipharma – a decision which is considered a leading assessment of the ‘gold standard’ for added matter under Swiss patent law. Vital to this success was Andrea Mondini, one of the most popular and respected litigators in the country: “He is absolutely brilliant and puts up a tough fight in court. Andrea stands out for the quality of his work; opponents need to take care of even the smallest details when he is on the other side.” “Andrea is really personable and extremely professional; he has a calm demeanour and is lovely to work with too. Each collaboration is fluent and effective.”

Walder Wyss

Full-service Walder Wyss draws on a treasure trove of resources to superb effect: with more than 220 experts on hand and a finely cultivated international network, it has a unique ability to build tailored multi-disciplinary teams for every instruction. Clients appreciate its holistic approach in tending to their every dispute resolution and licensing need. Leading the charge, Markus Frick is no stranger to heavy-duty litigation: he has lately been advising Bysotronic Laser before the Federal Patent Court in a matter which is now pending before the Swiss Supreme Court, the EPO and the South Korean courts. “Fantastic litigator” Frick comes highly recommended for his “outstanding skillset, efficiency and success rate”: “His written submissions are brilliant and extremely convincing, and his communication skills are flawless.” Another highly regarded practitioner, Roger Staub acquits himself with distinction in challenging contentious scenarios and negotiations on IP-intensive agreements. He is a favourite among global pharmaceutical companies, not least thanks to fluency in English, French, German and Spanish. Medical doctor and attorney at law Andreas Wildi has been integral to the firm’s life sciences success stories and brings useful regulatory know-how to the table. Over in Lugano, Stefano Codoni has a vibrant transactions practice and can be counted on for crisp results in the technology arena.

Other recommended experts

“An experienced lawyer and a phenomenal litigator with great work ethic”, BianchiScwald’s Christoph Gasser makes his debut in the IAM Patent 1000. He has a phenomenal eye for detail and constructs meticulous arguments – just some of the reasons why he has been chosen to sit as an adjunct judge at the Federal Patent Court. At BOVARD, Tarik Kapić is a fine choice for information and communication technology companies in need of watertight patent applications and thorough landscape analyses. “Skilled, open minded and easy to work with”, VISCHER’s Stefan Kohler resolves thorny disputes and negotiates lucrative licensing deals with finesse. prins Patent & Trademark Attorneys’ Bruno Meyer understands the value of patents as business assets, drafts applications accordingly and supports inventors from start to finish. “A brilliant and super-friendly attorney”, Philipp Rüfenacht is “super-knowledgeable, results driven and extremely thorough in his approach”. The physics pro can be found at Keller Schneider. “An experienced attorney who knows exactly what clients want and works hard to deliver”, Martin Sperrle of Latscha Schöllhorn Partner joins the IAM Patent 1000 this year. He knows a thing or two about building up patent portfolios and managing them on a global scale. Christophe Saam is “highly skilled and quick on his feet”, and brings a valuable added dimension to the mix as a part-time judge. The electronic engineer operates out of P&TS. Flying the flag of Streichenberg Attorneys at Law, Christoph Willi is a favourite among generic pharmaceutical companies for his crystalline advice and measured counsel in heated disputes. A master strategist and prosecutor par excellence, Marco Zardi of M Zardi & Co is technically and legally accomplished and tackles the toughest briefs with flair.

Individuals: litigation

Individuals: prosecution

Individuals: transactions