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Reviewed 15 November 2011

New Intellectual Property Court process will boost UK business

The Government today confirmed that a new small claims service will be introduced at the Patents County Court (PCC), helping small and medium sized businesses protect their copyright, trade marks and designs.

Currently small firms are often put off enforcing their Intellectual Property (IP) rights by high costs. The new process will limit fixed costs and allow damages of up to £5000 per case. New figures produced today by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) estimate that around 150 firms will benefit from the service every year, providing an annual boost to UK business of £350,000.

The recommendation for a small claims service was made in the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth. Since the Review was published in May 2011 the Government has been looking at building a business case for the service, which has now been completed meaning it will become a reality.

Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Wilcox 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.

"Businesses know how important it is to protect their rights and have been calling for changes to be made to the system. The Government is acting on these concerns because a strong intellectual property system will enable innovative small companies to grow and support the UK economy. We hope to have the new system in place by this time next year."

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said:

"It is clearly much better for the economy if businesses are spending their time and money on trading and growth, rather than on unnecessarily complicated legal processes. That is why we are modernising the justice system in order to provide simpler, quicker and more cost efficient ways to resolve disputes."

Evidence presented to the recent Hargreaves Review, Digital Opportunity: A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, indicated that around 1 in 6 (17 per cent) of small and medium sized businesses had given up attempting to enforce their rights due to high court costs.

Notes to editors

  • The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is an executive agency of the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS) and is responsible for the national framework of Intellectual Property rights, comprising patents, designs, trade marks and copyright.
  • Its role is to help manage an IP system that encourages innovation and creativity, balances the needs of consumers and users, promotes strong and competitive markets and is the foundation of the knowledge-based economy.
  • It operates in a national and an international environment and its work is governed by national and international law, including various international treaties relating to Intellectual Property (IP) to which the United Kingdom is a party.
  • Changes to the legal system for IP cases since June 2010 have included new limits on costs (£50,000) and damages (£500,000) in the Patents County Court.
  • The limits were implemented following a report by Lord Justice Jackson in his review of Civil Litigation Costs on 14 January 2010.
  • Although recent reforms have improved the cost of taking smaller IP cases to court, a business with a legal case worth less than £5,000 could still face costs of up to £50,000 to get a judgement against an infringer.
  • In the past some companies were put off protecting their rights due to the cost. Supporting evidence to the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth highlighted that around 1 in 6 (17 per cent) of small and medium sized businesses had given up attempting to enforce their rights.
  • The Central London County Court is designated as a Patents County Court.
  • Copies of the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth PDF document(1.38Mb), and the Government’s response PDF document(402Kb) are available.
  • Supporting documents highlighting enforcement issues of IP are available.
  • Further information on the Patents County Court is available.
  • For further information, please contact Dan Palmer on 0207 215 5303.

Date of release: 15 November 2011