Small claims, big gains: a welcome reform for UK IP litigation

Judge Jeffreys ("The
hanging judge"): would
he have approved?
Thank heavens for small mercies!  A media release from the United Kingdom's News Distribution Service has just informed the IPKat that the British Government has confirmed today that a new small claims service will be introduced at the Patents County Court, helping small and medium sized businesses protect their copyright, patents, trade marks and designs. According to the information provided:

"Currently small firms are often put off enforcing their Intellectual Property (IP) rights by high costs. The new process will limit fixed costs and allow damages of up to £5,000 per case. New figures produced today by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) estimate that around 150 firms will benefit from the service every year, providing an annual boost to UK business of £350,000 [the IPKat is surprised at the low figure of 150. Is this because there aren't enough facilities to handle any more?  He thinks that, once word gets round that this service exists, at least ten times as many people will be wanting to take advantage of it. ACID's design-based membership could probably keep the small claims court at full strength by themselves, he reckons. Merpel says, you've misread it. "Small claims service" means a small service for claims ...].

The recommendation for a small claims service was made in the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth [though there have been periodical calls for it almost since the Kat can remember]. Since the Review was published in May 2011 the Government has been looking at building a business case for the service, which has now been completed meaning it will become a reality.

Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Wilcox said: " ... We hope to have the new system in place by this time next year”.

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said: "... Evidence presented to the recent Hargreaves Review ... indicated that around 1 in 6 (17 per cent) of small and medium sized businesses had given up attempting to enforce their rights due to high court costs" [which makes the figure of 150, cited above, look even more of an underestimate].
The IPKat wholeheartedly welcomes this initiative and wishes it every success.  Merpel wants to know why, despite a previous prod from this weblog, the email circulars from the News Distribution Service continue, pointlessly and mindlessly, to bear the inscription
"© Crown Copyright 2010 [This is not a mistake: to save administrative costs and make things easier for the numerically-challenged, the Government is rounding all years up, or down, to the nearest ten]. This communication from the NDS is confidential and copyright. Anyone coming into unauthorised possession of it should disregard its content and erase it from their records".
Small claims, big gains: a welcome reform for UK IP litigation Small claims, big gains: a welcome reform for UK IP litigation Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. It is unfortunate that us mere mortals do not have authority to view the media release. Presumably, this is a confidential disclosure to the media?

  2. Us mere mortals can now read the press release on the IPO's web site here:

    As an aside to the apple image item, the illustration accompanying the IPO's vacancies in IT is somewhat reminiscent of Hallowe'en:


  4. Have a look here:
    Curiously, this doesn't include patents - only TM, design and copyright, or am I missing something?

  5. Department of Minuscule EmendationsWednesday 16 November 2011 at 08:31:00 GMT

    In this context, "we mere mortals", please.

  6. Who needs this new small claims service when some special people can start infringement proceedings using Money Claim Online and not get thrown out of the building?

    I'm not joking but this happened in the strangest of all cases of Golden Eye (International) Ltd v Maricar [2011] EWPCC 27 which is currently before HHJ Birss QC in the Patents County Court.

  7. So crown copyright will now last as long as our monarch considers convenient?

  8. I quite like the idea of using the online small claims service to aid the little man/woman in enforcing their rights at low cost.

    Golden eye looks to be an attempt to avoid specialist consideration in the Patents Court, but thankfully the defendant seems to have obtained some good (free) advice on the matter and managed to succeed in getting the case transferred

    All these internet cases (eg Mediacat) appear to relate to the downloading and sharing of pornography films. I have been advised (!) that such films may have no original content and so I question their right to copyright protection at all.

  9. IPO confirmed to me today that it's not for patents! "Cases involving patents are not part of the small claims process in the PCC. This is because patent cases are often complex and would not fit within the cost limits. Therefore, the disputes would not be resolved. However, the PCC does now have more effective procedures including a cost cap for cases involving patents."


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