A patent court is a court that exclusively handles cases involving patent law. Certain countries segregate patent cases within their legal systems because the evaluation of patents and the application of patent law require special technical expertise that the average judge may not have. A country’s patent court is either designated the “patent court” by name and exists independent of the national court system, or is part of the national court system and exists as a panel of judges appointed to exclusively hear patent law cases.
Patents are intellectual property rights granted by a government to the inventor of a product. It provides the inventor with the exclusive right to profit from his invention within the government’s jurisdiction for a specific period of time, and in exchange the inventor makes the invention available to the public. Patents are typically applied for and registered administratively with a country’s national patent office. Disputes regarding the grant of a patent or the prosecution of patent infringement, however, are usually handled by the country’s court system.
Patent litigation is complicated and requires a high level of technical expertise. Inventions can include technical drawings, programming specifications, formulas, and other science-based details that make the determination of whether a patent is valid or has been infringed upon difficult for a person unfamiliar with that area of science to analyze. Many countries have recognized this difficulty and have established a specialized patent court to hear these cases.
In the U.K., all patent law cases are heard by the High Court, Patents Court, which is part of the Chancery Division of the Supreme Court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is the patent court of the United States, and has exclusive federal jurisdiction to hear appeals from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and appeals from federal district courts in patent infringement cases. Other countries, such as Canada, Australia, and Taiwan, have similarly dedicated patent courts.
A typical patent court will have a dedicated panel of judges that have been appointed or elected to the court. These judges have both the legal and technical background to analyze patents and provide inventors with the type of effective protection that would be difficult to achieve in a court of general application. In some jurisdictions, such as the U.K., Australia, and Canada, only those legal practitioners with special patent law credentials can argue cases in front of the patent court.