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The UK's Patents County Court (PCC) is to offer a new small claims track service to speed up the court process and reduce costs for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The PCC resolves intellectual property (IP) cases for England and Wales. The small claims track will provide copyright, trade mark and unregistered design holders with the option of pursuing basic IP disputes through an informal hearing, without legal representation. Claims allocated to the track will be subject to damages restrictions of GBP5,000 (USD8,000) or less, to ensure they are proportionate to what is at stake.
The changes broadly follow the recommendations made by Lord Justice Jackson, who conducted a review on the cost of civil litigation in 2010. The review found that the high cost of IP litigation was often unaffordable for many rights holders and disproportionate to what was at stake.
Jackson recommended a greater separation of County Court and High Court functions in IP cases. The High Court would continue to be used for complex and expensive cases, with potentially unlimited damage and cost awards, while the County Court would concentrate on shorter processing times for simpler cases, with a limit on costs and damages awarded.
Commenting on the changes, Business Minister Michael Fallon explained that: “Small firms, whose intellectual property has been infringed, will have today a simpler and easier way to take their cases forward, by writing direct to the judge and setting out the issues. Lower legal costs will make it easier for entrepreneurs to protect their creative ideas where they had previously struggled to access justice in what could often be an expensive progress."
"A smarter and cheaper process is good for business and helping businesses make the most of their intellectual property is good for the economy.”
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