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Intellectual Property disputes set to be streamlined with new court system

The Patents County Court has been criticised for the high costs that can be involved in bringing a claim for intellectual property infringement. Recent reforms of this court aim to bring about an end to this problem by creating a new low cost, streamlined process.

Intellectual Property Minister Lord Younger has proclaimed that the changes will make the court “a viable place for businesses of any size to protect their IP and ensure access to justice at a fair cost”

Here, we outline the changes which, it is hoped, will make enforcement quicker, easier and cheaper.

What has changed?

The most noticeable reform comes by way of a rebranding exercise: the court has been renamed the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC).

It is anticipated that the new name will clarify the IPEC’s jurisdiction and convey the broad remit that it now has to deal with the full range of Intellectual Property (IP) rights including copyright, trade marks, designs and, of course, patents.

Further, as part of the rebranding, the IPEC will no longer be part of the County Court but, rather, a specialist section of the Chancery Division of the High Court. This change, coupled with the new name, should help raise public awareness of this specialist forum for the protection of IP rights.

What else is new?

Importantly, these reforms have not stopped with a simple change of name and it is the substantive changes which should help make the IPEC a more effective forum for enforcement.

Foremost amongst the IPEC’s powers is an active case management regime, this should lead to a more streamlined process across the board.

For example, judges will have the power to restrict evidence to certain issues and even limit the types of evidence to help focus attention on the key issues in matters.

This is not altogether new – these processes have been in place since 2010 for patents – but coupled with the IPEC’s new broader remit, we should now see improvements for all IP cases. As part of this management process hearings will be limited to two days in order to save on costs and limit the issues brought in matters.

What about smaller scale disputes?

Previous reforms introduced a small claims option for IP claims worth £10,000 or less.

Under this scheme each party will usually bear their own costs whatever the outcome of the matter. This makes actions for lower value claims more accessible.

In more complicated matters there is an upper limit on damages of £500,000 where the usual cost regime will apply.

The limit on the recovery of costs a losing party will have to reimburse is £50,000 (except where there has been unreasonable or abusive behaviour).

This gives owners of IP some comfort when considering whether to issue proceedings. Concerns regarding cost exposure have always been an issue in litigation, so this limitation gives owners a useful “worst case” scenario to consider when contemplating action.

What difference will these changes make?

Whether or not these changes will deliver a more effective and cost-efficient system will be shown in time, but there is cause for optimism.

The potential costs of unsuccessful litigation are now clear. By putting this in place the reforms have provided owners with a useful starting point when considering litigation.

We welcome these changes as a positive move to help businesses which are reliant on the IP which they produce. Protecting IP is key to the success and growth of such businesses and it is hoped that the new system will allow these businesses, including those businesses and professionals within the creative and digital sector, to protect their IP more easily and cheaply.

How can I find out more about this?

If you have any queries regarding the reforms or on any other intellectual property matter, please get in touch.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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