Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights in the UK

Recent reforms to the English court system have significantly levelled the playing field for small and medium-sized business seeking to enforce their intellectual property rights.  Brand owners are now able to litigate without incurring the large costs historically associated with a heavyweight dispute.

The first changes in October 2010 introduced the Patents County Court (PCC), which, despite its name, deals with all forms of intellectual property.  The intention was to provide a forum within which to deal with less complex cases than those in the High Court and to do so in such a way as to reduce the overall cost.

A case heard in the PCC is available for disputes relating to:

 

  1. trade marks

  2. passing off

  3. copyright

  4. designs

  5. patents

 

All the usual remedies are available including preliminary and final injunctions, damages, accounts of profits, delivery up, disclosure, search and seizure (Anton Piller) order and asset freezing (Mareva) orders.  There is a cap of £500,000 on damages and a limit of £50,000 on costs.

For many businesses however, the prospect of being ordered to pay the other side’s costs of up to £50,000 remains daunting.  Fortunately, in October 2012  a special procedure was introduced called the Small Claims Track.

The Small Claims Track

In cases which follow the Small Claims Track, a losing party will not be ordered to pay the other side’s legal costs and cannot be liable for more than £10,000 in damages (from April 2013).  To ensure disputes are dealt with quickly and efficiently, strict rules of evidence do not apply and decisions may be made without a hearing.

The Small Claims Track is available for claims of infringement relating to:

 

  1. trade marks

  2. passing off

  3. copyright

  4. unregistered design right

 

Comment

Brand owners with rights in the UK now have access to a very cheap and swift procedure for resolving intellectual property disputes.  The PCC is highly suited to businesses which do not want to incur significant expense but, for example wish to prevent a third party from using their intellectual property and recover damages.

Patents County Court Guide here.

Small Claims Track Guide here.

Civil Procedure Rule 63 Intellectual Property Claims here.

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