Easier Access to Justice to Enforce Patent and Design Rights

Following Lord Justice Jackson’s report on his review of civil litigation costs, a new law has been introduced to make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to bring actions to protect their patent and design rights.

The Patents County Court (Financial Limits) Order 2011 became law on 14 June 2011. It establishes a damages cap of £500,000 for such claims made in the Patents County Court (PCC) and creates a clearer definition of which disputes can be heard in the PCC and which should go to the High Court. Previously, a business with a legal case worth less than £500,000 could face litigation in either Court, with unknown levels of financial risk.

The change in the law will ensure that lower-value, less complex cases will automatically fall within the jurisdiction of the PCC, thus reducing the risk of a costly dispute over where a case should be heard. Previously, some businesses were reluctant to take action to protect their patent and design rights owing to uncertainty as to how much this would cost.

The effectiveness of the damages cap will be monitored, with a formal review scheduled for 2014.

The next step in implementing the proposals in Lord Justice Jackson’s report will be to expand the law further so that the damages cap for claims made in the PCC will cover copyright and trade mark cases.

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