Patents Trade Marks Designs Copyright

Low Cost Intellectual Property Litigation in the UK?

December 05, 2012

On 1st October 2012 a small claims track was introduced into the Patents County Court for certain intellectual property claims. We discuss the benefits and possible disadvantages of the new small claims track.

On 1st October 2012 a small claims track was introduced into the Patents County Court for certain intellectual property claims. The small claims track of the Patents County Court aims to provide improved access to justice for individuals and small to medium sized businesses, as it provides a cost-effective option to bringing action following infringement of a number of intellectual property rights. Trade mark, passing off, copyright and unregistered design cases can be brought in the small claims track of the Patents County Court; however, patent and registered design disputes are excluded. The small claims track is suitable for lower value claims of up to £5,000, provided they are not particularly complex. The general rule regarding costs (that is, that the unsuccessful party pays the legal costs of the successful party) does not apply to the small claims track of the Patents County Court, meaning that cost orders should be limited. As a result, there is very little risk regarding costs. The process offers a quicker, easier and cheaper procedure for individuals and small businesses to protect their intellectual property rights than has previously been available and it is anticipated that most claims brought under the small claims track should be resolved without the need for a hearing, following a review of the papers. It is possible that a defendant will request to transfer a case brought under the small claims track to the Patents County Court multi-track, if the facts of the case are particularly complex. The small claims track will not be the appropriate forum for complex cases. One disadvantage of the small claims track is that a defendant might not necessarily be willing to reach a settlement, as neither party is likely to be exposed to an order for costs. It is the risk of being ordered to pay the other party’s costs within a court action that often prompts the parties to negotiate a settlement. As an example, the Patents County Court multi-track has a £500,000 limit on damages and a cap on costs of £50,000. Following the introduction of the small claims track within the Patents County Court, we could well see an increase in individuals and small businesses bringing actions to defend their intellectual property rights, where they previously would have been prevented from taking such action due to costs. The improved access to justice for certain intellectual property disputes should therefore be borne in mind during business activities. If you require further guidance or assistance on this matter, please get in touch with your usual contact at Swindell & Pearson, or Katy Fuggle at [email protected]

Swindell & Pearson has been helping businesses and individuals protect and defend their ideas, innovations and brands for over 130 years. With its head office in Derby, the firm also has offices in Stoke, Wolverhampton, Stafford, Sheffield and Burton. To find out how Swindell & Pearson can help you with any intellectual property requirements please get in touch via [email protected] or by telephone on 01332 367 051.