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Access to justice: IPEC 1 - MoJ 0 (Brands & IP Newsnotes - issue 1)

27 September 2015

Conducting litigation in a cost effective and proportionate manner can be a challenge, especially if it involves big brand owners going toe to toe. But help is at hand in the form of the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (‘IPEC’).

The ‘Patents County Court’ (for many like a sluggish centre-back) was replaced by an energetic striker in the form of the IPEC, revamped and raring to go from October 2013. Part of the High Court, it was intended to offer better access to justice, particularly for SMEs looking to protect their IP.

At the end of July 2015, following an independent review, IP Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe was quick to comment that “Access to justice has greatly improved for all rights holders, but particularly for small and medium sized businesses and entrepreneurs.” Back of the net!

Headline points from the review show a substantial increase in the number of IP cases, particularly from small businesses and individuals using the IPEC to enforce their IP rights. The review found that cost caps and active case management have helped litigants better understand their potential exposure and greatly sped up the litigation process.

This all sounds like excellent news, especially given the ever increasing role that IP plays in many UK businesses. But could the Ministry of Justice (‘MOJ’) be about to score an own goal through its tampering with court fees? In March 2015 the court fee for bringing a claim with a value of over £10k rose considerably to 5% of the total value claimed (capped at £10k). If that wasn’t bad enough, the MOJ has launched another consultation on further increases, including raising the cap on court fees from £10k to £20k.

Given that CFAs are no longer appropriate for many types of litigation, including IP claims, the options are already limited. It would be shame if all the hard yards put in by the IPEC unravel. So let’s hope those proposals get the red card!

This article was first published in the Brands & IP newsnotes publication - issue 1.

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