Last year, we reported on an overhaul of the Patents County Court (the PCC). This overhaul was designed to turn the PCC into a more streamlined, cost effective forum for the enforcement of IP rights. The changes were particularly aimed at making it more feasible for small and medium sized enterprises to enforce their rights by providing greater legal certainty over the time and the costs involved in pursuing a case.
Subsequent changes have now seen the introduction of a cap on damages which can be awarded by the PCC. In June 2011, a damages cap of £500,000 was introduced for patent and design cases and, on 1 October 2011, the same damages cap was introduced for trade mark and copyright cases. This cap, combined with the existing £50,000 cap on recoverable costs, means that lower value, less complex cases will now automatically fall within the jurisdiction of the PCC.
The automatic assignment of cases to the PCC will, it is hoped, reduce the need for often costly disputes over where cases should be heard. It is worth noting, however, that it is still possible for rights holders to file a claim for their case to be heard in the High Court if they feel that their case would benefit from this.
These changes bring greater legal certainty with regard to the cost of litigation in the PCC, further differentiating it from the High Court where there is no limit on the costs and damages which may be awarded. This differentiation is particularly important for small and medium sized enterprises that are often put off from enforcing their IP rights due to the potentially high costs involved.
IP rights are important assets, but without the ability to enforce them they lose much of their value. The new, more streamlined PCC with limits on costs and damages provides a forum for IP litigation where small and medium sized business can stand on a much more equal footing with financially stronger companies.
13 October 2011