Intellectual Property Enterprise Court: Small claims can now be issued in the district registries

The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court ('IPEC') is the Court of choice now for claimants bringing intellectual property claims in the UK.  This forum reduces the cost of litigation in the UK considerably and limits the losing party's exposure to the winning party's costs to £50,000 for the liability stage of proceedings.

The IPEC guide has recently been published and along with it, a significant update on the Small Claims Track in intellectual property disputes heard at the IPEC. As of October 2019, the IPEC can now hear small claims cases in various Courts across England and Wales (instead of just the IPEC Small Claims Court based at the Rolls Building in London, as was previously the position). There are now a total of eight Business and Property Courts throughout England and Wales in which small claims in the IPEC can now be heard, these are: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and the aforementioned Central London Court.

This development follows changes introduced in relation to larger cases whereby intellectual property infringement claims can now be issued in the regional Business and Property Courts (such as the Bristol District Registry).

The IPEC Small Claims Track is used for the most straightforward intellectual property cases with estimated values of £10,000 or less. These cases are also, in keeping with their low value, of low complexity in terms of both facts and the legal issues. These types of claim generally cover claims concerning copyright, designs and trade marks. The Small Claims Track of the IPEC is invaluable to the many that use it; and a key aspect of small claims is that legal costs do not apply, which means there is usually no provision made for who should be responsible for the legal costs incurred. Instead, a successful claimant will usually only recover the Court fees incurred. Generally, cases brought in the Small Claims Track of the IPEC are dealt with using very short and informal hearings, with legal representation rarely required.

This is a significant development for the IPEC and for potential litigants in the Small Claims Court. Parties will no longer have to travel to London to be involved in the hearings (which will reduce their costs further) and instead they can go to their nearest district registry for their hearings.

The scheme may have its limitations however as many of the specialist IP judges are based in London, and appeals from decisions in the IPEC Small Claims Track dealt with by the district registries will be allocated a judge from the multi-track to hear the appeal, and this may occur in the district registry or in London depending on the circumstances of the case and on judge availability.

For those interested in bringing a claim through the Small Claims Track at IPEC, our intellectual property lawyers are able to advise you on how to do it and support you during the process, so that you are equipped to undertake the majority of the work and represent yourself at the hearing.

A guide to the IPEC Small Claims Track can be found here.

The news that claimants can now issue IPEC small claims in their local district registries is welcomed. It makes perfect sense to save costs by keeping low value cases local to the parties and avoid (what can sometimes be) costly trips to London for application hearings and trial. After this scheme has been trialled, it will be interesting to see if it is rolled out for multi-track claims which will in turn provide more options for litigants bringing larger and more complex claims but who are deterred by the travel time necessarily involved in attending hearings/trial in London.

Rachel Pearse, Senior Associate in the Intellectual Property team