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An affordable forum for SMEs with IP disputes
Intellectual property (IP) disputes in the High Court can be costly and complex, but did you know that there is a specialist court which may provide SMEs with a quicker and cheaper way to resolve them?
The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) is in the Chancery Division of the High Court. The IPEC is intended to provide a cost-effective forum to hear IP disputes, as an alternative to the claim proceeding through the High Court in the usual way.
A specialist IP judge will take an active role in case management and ensure that the extent of evidence is strictly controlled (e.g limiting disclosure, expert evidence, and even arguments made at trial).
There is a cap on the value of the claim (currently £0.5m), along with an overall cap on recoverable costs which is (a) £50,000 for proceedings to trial on the issue of liability and (b) £25,000 for an inquiry into damages.
There is a time limit, too – a trial in the IPEC should ordinarily last no longer than 2 days.
Even if a claim is likely to be valued at more than £0.5m the case can proceed in the IPEC if both parties agree. However, due to the more streamlined approach and reduced costs the IPEC is mostly suitable for smaller, shorter, less complex cases with a value below the maximum limit.
One of the purposes of the IPEC is to make litigation more affordable to businesses who wish to protect their IP, and avoid the more expensive process of the usual High Court procedure. It is often suitable for SMEs and can be an effective means to enforce rights in the market place, and to avoid being ‘out- gunned’ by larger opponents with deeper pockets.
In the case of 77M Ltd v Ordnance Survey Ltd and others  (IPEC) the judge in the IPEC refused a request by one party to have the case transferred from the IPEC into the High Court, on the basis that to do so would remove the smaller party’s access to the courts, and that they would otherwise be unable to fund the case.
Paul Gordon is a partner in our litigation and dispute resolution department. He joined Willans from a City law firm in 2005, and has experience in handling a broad range of commercial matters, including intellectual property, director and shareholder disputes, and engineering and construction cases.