Business News Legal Top Stories

IP court launches with new name and streamlined processes

By | Published on Wednesday 2 October 2013

HM Courts & Tribunals Service

As rebrands go, the news that the Patents County Court has been renamed the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court isn’t going to grab too many headlines, but it’s hoped the name change will better communicate the specialist low-level court’s remit, which now covers all forms of IP, including copyright, and not just patents.

The renaming also coincides with a number of other changes that it is hoped will make it quicker, easier and, crucially, cheaper for IP owners to defend their rights in court. And on the flip side, the streamlined processes should also make it easier and cheaper for those falsely accused of infringement to defend themselves.

Amongst the innovations is the introduction of a scale of recoverable costs capped at £50,000, a time limit on case hearings to reduce overall costs, and the previously reported launch of a small claims option for IP cases where any possible damages will be relatively small (originally it was thought there would be a £5000 cap, though in the end the small claims option will be open for cases pursuing damages of up to £10,000).

As previously noted, the small claims option would make it quicker and cheaper for copyright owners to pursue litigation against individual file-sharers, where damages are rarely going to be more than a few grand.

And while the big British content companies, including the record labels, have generally shied away from suing individual file-sharers, if the three-strikes system described in the 2010 Digital Economy Act ever goes live, under which internet service providers would be forced to send stern warning letters to suspected file-sharers, the Act doesn’t currently include a defined strike three. Meaning that if warning letters were ignored, rights owners would have to sue the file-sharer to enforce a strike-three sanction.

Commenting on the relaunch of the Patents County Court as the IP Enterprise Court yesterday, the government’s IP Minister James Younger told CMU: “Today marks the end of a series of successful reforms, which have completely re-energised this court. The changes make it a viable place for businesses of any size to protect their IP and ensure access to justice at a fair cost for all rights holders and other businesses. These changes will also make it easier and cheaper for businesses in the long run as they will now be better able to understand and navigate the specialist IP courts if a dispute occurs. This will reduce the cost of legal services and level the playing field for smaller business”.

Noting that point, that the reforms particularly benefit smaller companies, Clive Davenport of the Federation Of Small Businesses also welcomed the developments, telling reporters: “The FSB welcomes the formal introduction of the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court today. These changes should make it easier and cheaper for businesses, particularly SMEs and our members to identify, understand and navigate the specialist IP courts when they need to resolve an IP dispute”.

He went on: “Small businesses stand to benefit from better protection of their work. A better understanding of the IPEC’s purpose will enable them to identify the appropriate court to resolve their intellectual property disputes. We will continue to support and monitor the progress of the court based on the real benefit to our members – small businesses who make a huge contribution to the UK economy”.