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Law change makes it easier for SMEs to pursue intellectual property claims

October 1, 2012

A new legal procedure has been introduced to help small firms to protect their intellectual property rights without the need for legal representation or a formal hearing.

The small claims track has been added to the Patents County Court (PCC) to make it easier and cheaper for copyright, trademark and unregistered design holders to pursue basic intellectual property (IP) disputes.

Any claims which are allocated to the small claims track will have maximum costs capped at £5,000 to ensure proportionality.

Background to PCC changes

The changes announced today can be traced back to the January 2010 review into the cost of civil litigation by Lord Justice Jackson which found that the costs of IP litigation was to high in proportion to what was typically at stake.

The report recommended that the High Court would remain responsible for overseeing complex, expensive IP cases, and the Country Court should deal with simpler cases, with limits imposed on both costs and damages.

A subsequent review by Prof. Ian Hargreaves suggested that the small claims track should be introduced to the PCC.

The cost and damages cap was introduced in October 2010, and the PCC is likely to be renamed in 2013/14 to better reflect the Court’s remit.

“Good for business”

Business Minister, Michael Fallon, welcomed the announcement of a simpler and less expensive way for entrepreneurs to protect their IP – by writing to the judge and providing a summary of the issues involved.

“Lower legal costs will make it easier for entrepreneurs to protect their creative ideas where they had previously struggled to access justice in what could often be an expensive progress. A smarter and cheaper process is good for business and helping businesses make the most of their intellectual property is good for the economy.”

Announcing the changes today, the Department of BIS also recommended business owners consider contacting the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in the first instance, as an alternative to taking court action. The IPO provides a number of services, including mediation, and hearings before an IPO tribunal.