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New law will 'help SMEs protect patent and design rights'

Posted: 18th July 2011   In: Corporate Commercial

A new law has come into effect which should make it easier and less daunting for small and medium sized businesses to protect their patent and design rights.

There have been examples in the past of firms being unwilling to protect their rights because of uncertainty over how much it would cost.

The Patents County Court (Financial Limit) Order 2011 helps to reduce that uncertainty by creating a clear definition of which cases should be heard in the Patents County Court (PCC) and which should go to the High Court. It also sets a damages cap of £500,000 for cases heard in the PCC.

The developments are significant because the costs involved in bringing a case to the PCC are generally much lower than those in the High Court.

Previously, companies bringing a case could incur considerable costs just in settling disputes over whether it should be heard in the PCC or the High Court. This deterred many firms from taking legal action because they could not be certain of the financial risks.

The change brings much more certainty. Less complex cases with a value of less than £500,000 will automatically fall within the jurisdiction of the lower and much cheaper PCC.

It’s hoped the change will encourage small businesses to innovate and develop new products and systems. Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Wilcox said: “It will also provide clarity over the legal processes, certainty over the risks and give small enterprises the confidence to stand on an equal footing with financially stronger companies.”

The Government is now looking to expand the law further so it also covers cases of copyright and trade marks.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article.