The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) is an alternative venue to the High Court of England and Wales for intellectual property litigation, patent, design, trade mark, copyright and trade secret cases. The IPEC typically hears less complex cases than the High Court (Patents Court), and provides monetary caps on claims. The IPEC (formerly known as the Patents County Court) has proved attractive, in particular for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), as a fast and cost effective IP litigation forum. There is a cap on the monetary value of claims before the IPEC of £500,000.
J A Kemp’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution Group, comprising a barrister, solicitors, patent attorneys and trade mark attorneys, represents clients at the IPEC regularly.
The winning party in High Court litigation will generally be granted an order that the losing party should pay its legal costs. This rule can act as a disincentive for an SME to bring proceedings against a larger defendant who may well incur substantial legal costs in its defence. The rules of procedure of the IPEC limit the legal costs the successful party can recover from the losing party to a maximum of £50,000. The aim of this rule is to provides certainty as to the maximum financial liability a party will incur if it does not succeed in its case, and therefore to remove the disincentive for SMEs to litigate against larger, richer parties.
The procedure at the IPEC is different to that of the High Court in that it is front-loaded and paper-based[TC1] . That is to say, parties should set out their case fully but concisely early on in writing.
The Particulars of Claim, filed by the Claimant, and Defence, filed by the Defendant, each verified by Statement of Truth, define the scope of the claim(s) and counterclaim(s). Legal costs are kept to a minimum because there is no automatic ‘standard disclosure’ of documents and no right to adduce evidence without permission. If a party wants disclosure of documents, witnesses of fact or expert evidence it needs to justify it on a cost-benefit test to the Judge at a Case Management Conference. Many cases may be able to proceed without any or with only limited oral evidence. It currently takes around 15 months or so from commencement to trial.
If both parties agree, the decision may be made on the basis of the parties’ written cases. Any trial will be limited to one or two days and will involve no or strictly limited cross examination.
The IPEC offers a streamlined, cost-effective procedure for the less complex and valuable IP cases. It is an attractive forum for SMEs to enforce their intellectual property rights.