Over the past year we have reported on changes introduced to the Patents County Court (the PCC). These changes have been aimed at making it more feasible for small and medium sized enterprises to enforce their intellectual property rights by, among other things, introducing a cost cap of £50,000 and a damages cap of £500,000.
However, though these changes have made litigation in the PCC far cheaper and simpler than pursuing a claim in the High Court, there is still the risk that a business with a legal case worth less than £5,000 could face costs of up to £50,000 to get a judgement against an infringer. In addition, companies are often more interested in obtaining an injunction against an infringing party than claiming damages.
In response to these concerns, the Government has now confirmed that a new small claims service will be introduced in the PCC. Few details of this service are available at this point, but we know that costs will be limited and damages will be allowed up to only £5,000 per case.
According to the Hargreaves review, around 17% of small and medium sized business have given up attempting to enforce their intellectual property rights due to the risks and costs involved. The introduction of a small claims service will hopefully prove a big incentive for such companies to make use of their intellectual property rights, and to defend them against infringement.
The Minister for Intellectual Property, Baroness Wilcox, has said:
"This is great news for small and medium sized businesses as it will give them the confidence to stand up and protect their intellectual property rights. A small claims process means businesses will not have to fight through lengthy court battles instead of concentrating on growing their business."
This service is expected to come into effect next year. It is not clear at this point whether it will be possible to enforce all forms of intellectual property through this service, but it is expected to apply at least to trademarks, copyright and design right.
5 December 2011