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UK brings in small-claims court for intellectual property

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Small-biz bosses in England and Wales will find it easier and cheaper to protect their intellectual property from today.

That's the promise by Blighty's business minister Michael Fallon, who yesterday launched a new way to use the Patents County Court (PCC) to settle small claims of up to £5,000 without getting expensive lawyers involved.

The so-called small-claims track is part of the Coalition government's overhaul of law for small business.

Costs and damages in small-scale intellectual property cases are already capped, but claims will now be processed quicker as a result of the new track - with businesses able to write directly to judges setting out their case. Copyright, trademark and holders of unregistered designs will have the option of sorting out disputes through an informal hearing without legal representation. Fallon said:

Lower legal costs will make it easier for entrepreneurs to protect their creative ideas where they had previously struggled to access justice in what could often be an expensive progress.

A smarter and cheaper process is good for business and helping businesses make the most of their intellectual property is good for the economy.

However although copyright, trademarks and unregistered design cases can be chased through the small-claims court, other sorts of cases may not be. Patents and any lawsuits involving plant varieties will have to follow other procedures in the PCC.

The High Court will remain the venue for more complex and expensive cases, with potentially unlimited damage and cost awards.

The changes come after two separate reviews of the patent process, headed by Lord Justice Jackson and Professor Ian Hargreaves respectively.

The government's business department still recommends that legal action is a last resort for intellectual property disputes. They stressed that Blighty's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) provides alternatives for resolving basic disputes, including hearings before an IPO tribunal and the office's mediation services. ®

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