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Intellectual Property Enterprise Court – a big hit with small firms

The number of small businesses taking claims to the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court has jumped sharply over the past year. The court provides a cost-effective and efficient way for business owners to protect their brands.

What is the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court?

  • Originally established in October 2010 as the ‘Patent County Court’, the IPEC provides businesses with a less costly alternative to the High Court, when forced to make a claim for an intellectual property breach.
  • Type of cases heard by the court include potential infringement of patents, trademarks, copyright, and passing off.
  • The court also provides a full-time specialist judge to preside over cases, which speeds up the time taken to conclude litigation enormously. The trial procedure is streamlined to last a mere two days.
  • Unlike the High Court, there is a £500,000 cap on the amount of damages / profits which can be claimed, and the amount of costs recoverable are also limited – to £50,000.

An attractive alternative to the High Court

According to data provided by Hugh James, a leading law firm, the court heard 287 cases in 2013, up from 188 amd 116 in the previous two years.

So, if you’re looking to make a claim, and the total damages are likely to be relatively small, then the IPEC may be a more suitable court to use, rather than the High Court. The cap on recoverable costs also means that smaller firms are protected to an extent if they lose a claim.

Tracey Singlehurst-Ward, Senior Associate at Hugh James, siad that the cap “helps businesses easily understand the full extent of their potential costs (win or lose) before the trial even begins, a big draw for those SMEs worrying about hefty unforeseen costs.”

“This levelling of the playing field is resulting in more SMEs pursuing cases against larger, more financially robust companies as the prospect of spiralling costs is quashed.”

The firm urges businesses to take the time to register trademarks in the first place. This is easy to do, and is inexpensive. If you have a registered trade mark, it is clearly far easier to defend a potential claim for ‘passing off’, rather than being forced to enter a costly and stressful brand dispute.

Find out more in our article on company names and trade marks.

Further Information

Find out more about the IPEC here on the Justice website.

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