RENTSCH PARTNER changes the «patent attorney and attorney at law landscape» in Switzerland

In a landmark decision, the Zurich Administrative Court rendered a carefully reasoned decision in favor of RENTSCH PARTNER against the Zurich Attorneys-at-Law Supervising Board. Even highly experienced experts in the IP and esp. patent law community considered such a decision most unlikely:

In a very carefully reasoned landmark decision of 21 March 2024 (VB.2022.00753), the Zurich Administrative Court decided that the «independence» of attorneys-at-law in the sense of art. 8 sec. 1 lit. d of the Swiss Attorneys-at-Law Act is not compromised, when the by-laws of their shareholding company permits the equal participation of patent attorneys and allows patent attorneys to become members of the board. Such equal participation requires that the patent attorneys are listed in the patent attorney registry and – in addition – are admitted to represent clients before the Federal Patent Court according to art. 29 Patent Court Act.

To put it simply, this means that attorneys-at-law and patent attorneys, in the future, will be able to organize themselves together in a common stock holding.

Up until this decision was rendered, the legal and patent community assumed that only attorneys-at-law, registered in a cantonal registry, would be permitted to be share holding equity partners in a corporate law firm and become members of the board.

The decision of the Zurich Administrative Court is final. It is reasoned so carefully, convincingly and in line with the case-law of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court that the Zurich Supervising Board as well as the Federal Departement of Justice refrained from filing an appeal to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court.

This is also a small step into the direction of a more liberal organization of multidisciplinary law firms in Switzerland. The decision also contains references that the «independence» of attorneys-at-law may possibly not be compromised when other professionals, such as notaries, may join a shareholding law firm as equity partners.