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Small firms in line for greater intellectual property protection

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Reforms to commercial litigation law that are intended to make it easier for small and medium-sized firms to protect their intellectual property have been announced by the government.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has introduced a £500,000 cap on claims made in the Patents County Court (PCC) that should remove the possibility of small firms not knowing which court would deal with their case and consequently, the levels of financial risk.

The Patents County Court (Financial Limit) Order 2011 will ensure that lower value, less complex cases – in which SMEs would typically be involved – will automatically fall within the jurisdiction of the PCC. It also clearly establishes which patent and design rights disputes will be heard in the PCC and which will be sent to the High Court, reducing the threat of incurring large legal costs. 

Previously, many businesses have decided against taking action to protect their IP due to the cost. Companies should now no longer be put off making claims and be encouraged to take more action to protection their intellectual property (IP) rights.

The PCC was established in 1990 to provide a less expensive and simpler alternative to the High Court for smaller, less complex claims.

Minister for intellectual property, Baroness Wilcox, said the new rules will "provide clarity over the legal processes, certainty over the risks and give small enterprises the confidence to stand on an equal footing with financially stronger companies".

The new law will be monitored followed by a review in June 2014. The law is likely to be further extended so the damages cap will cover copyrights and trademarks cases in the future.

Contact us

If you feel your commercial rights have been infringed, or you require further information on issues relating to trademarks, copyright and intellectual property, please Christopher Burke, who is partner in the commercial litigation team at Pearson Hinchliffe Commercial Law, using the details provided below.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

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