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Makeover of the Patents County Court?

Written by Corinne Day on 01 December 2009

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New proposals to reform the Patents County Court ('PCC') have been published by a Working Group of users of the PCC.

The new proposals, if implemented, will drastically revamp the intellectual property litigation system in England and Wales.

The report states that "it is time to re-assess the role of the Patents County Court and to return to the principle established by Parliament that it is a 'special jurisdiction' which should have its own distinct procedures."

The most notable proposals are:

- To make the PCC accessible to small and medium sized enterprises. This will be achieved by introducing greater certainty as to the costs of bringing a claim in the PCC, and by promoting legal expense insurance to fund intellectual property litigation.

- To re-name the PCC as the Intellectual Property County Court: this is definitely a far suitable label for the court as the court deals with all forms of intellectual property disputes;

- To streamline proceedings so that cases reach trial based solely on statements of case (i.e. the proceedings will not be 'delayed' by disclosure obligations, and there will be no automatic entitlement to adduce further factual or expert evidence or to cross-examine).

- To ensure that the Case Management Conference ('CMC') is held approximately two to four weeks after completion of the statements of case so that the Judge can make informed decisions as to the future conduct of the case. Applications can be made at the CMC for directions regarding specific, identified issues (such as for disclosure) although such applications will only be approved if the Judge is satisfied that the benefit of the further material in terms of its value in resolving the dispute appears likely to justify the cost of producing and dealing with that further material. The parties will also be encouraged to mediate at the CMC.

- The trial will be limited to one to two days, with cross-examination being strictly controlled.

- The Judge in the PCC will have control over their own diaries so that they can allocate trial dates and accommodate CMC's and other hearings at short notice.

- The maximum total costs (including disbursements, success fees (if a party is funded on a Conditional Fee Arrangement) and insurance premiums (if applicable) will be limited to £50,000.

- To limit the recoverable damages or profits to £500,000 (excluding interest).

To see the full report see: <http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/docs/pub_media/proposals-reform-patents-county-court.pdf>

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