Mr Justice Jacob has emerged as the frontrunner in the contest among patent court judges to replace Mr Justice Aldous in the Court of Appeal.
Insiders say that his long experience of both chancery and patent cases makes him the most appealing candidate in the mind of the Lord Chancellor, who will make the appointment. Aldous steps down officially in October, but Irvine is expected to make his decision at the beginning of June.
Mr Justice Laddie, to some a controversial figure, is the market’s second favourite, followed by Mr Justice Pumfrey, who, although described as a careful and efficient judge, has less general chancery experience. Pumfrey has also overseen fewer significant cases in recent times.
Mr Justice Neuberger, a highly competent chancery generalist, who has handled a fair amount of patent work in the past five years, is the rank outsider. Irvine will be looking for a straight patent judge to fill Aldous’s shoes. Ironically, Jacob, considered to be the most popular of the four, is not a full-time patents judge, despite the bulk of his cases falling into this area.
For many, Jacob is the most outstanding judge outside the Court of Appeal. He is seen as a man who combines the common touch with vitality and intellectual vigour.
Jacob and Laddie were controlling litigation in the style set down in the current Supreme Court rules long before they were formally introduced by Woolf in 1999.
A few years ago, Jacob was sent to the Chancery Circuit, a move generally believed to be in preparation for his elevation to the Court of Appeal.
Mr Justice Jacob
The most senior of the four judges. Although controversial on occasions, he is, in the main, a popular choice. He is one of the most pleasant judges in the profession and widely regarded as the finest judge outside the Court of Appeal. He is renowned for his common touch and socially is a far cry from the stereotypical High Court judge. He possesses a fast intellect and a reputation for cutting straight to the heart of a case. He has considerable all-round chancery experience, which annoys those wanting an exclusively patent specialist, but which appeals to the Lord Chancellor. A few years ago, Jacob was appointed a Chancery Circuit judge, a move commentators believe was to prime him for the Appeal Court.
Mr Justice Laddie
Regarded as a complex character, who can be both charming and difficult. He portrays an air of brilliance by seeking out controversial points and revealing errors. This is exemplified in the ongoing Arsenal v Matthew Reed case, in which he has criticised the European Court of Justice’s ruling. This is not the first time he has rubbed the Luxembourg court up the wrong way. It disagreed with Laddie’s analysis in the Silhouette case, regarding the principle of exhaustion relating to the resale of trademarked goods beyond the European Economic Area. Some claim that he has a tendency to make up his mind straight from the outset of a case. AstraZeneca once accused him of bias in his cross-examination of an expert witness. However, the allegations were subsequently thrown out.
Mr Justice Neuberger
Started hearing patent cases five years ago, but has heard fewer of late. His most important case was an action brought by biochemical company Amgen, relating to relief available on the selling and marketing of a patented product overseas. He was asked to handle patent cases because of his science background, but he never practised patent law. Neuberger is ranked as the outsider.
Mr Justice Pumfrey
Has a reputation for sitting in cases that run for longer than his peers. He is described as the archetypal measured and careful judge. He would be a safe choice, but Pumfrey lacks the profile and the volume of heavyweight cases that dominate the CVs of his rivals for the Court of Appeal post. The dark horse.