Julian Heathcote-Hobbins, General Counsel at FAST, stated: The recommendation for a small claims track to resolve IP disputes was made by Lord Justice Jackson in his Review of Civil Litigation Costs in January 2010. It was then endorsed in the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth in May 2011. So the news that it will be implemented at some stage in 2012 is to be warmly welcomed not just by SMB companies in the software sector, but any small company daunted by the costs associated with protecting their intellectual property.
The Hargreaves Report stated: The Government will, subject to establishing the value for money case, introduce a small claims track in the Patents County Court for cases with 5000 or less at issue, initially at a low level of resource to gauge demand, making greater provision if it is needed.
Julian continued: We have plenty of experience in working with small companies often put off from enforcing their Intellectual Property (IP) rights by high costs. The new process will limit fixed costs and allow damages of up to 5000 per case.
Recent figures produced 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.
In the Government announcement itself, the Minister for Intellectual Property, Baroness Wilcox said: This is great news for small and medium sized businesses as it will give them the confidence to stand up and protect their intellectual property rights. A small claims process means businesses will not have to fight through lengthy court battles instead of concentrating on growing their business.
Evidence presented to the recent Hargreaves Review, Digital Opportunity: A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, 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.