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Small claims track gives businesses new IP dispute resolution option

Businesses will be able to resolve small scale disputes over some intellectual property (IP) rights without having to engage in lengthy legal proceedings under a new court system introduced from today.

Firms that wish to claim damages for infringement of copyright, trade mark or unregistered design rights worth no more than £5,000 can now do so through an "informal hearing" at the Patents County Court (PCC), according to the UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The IPO said that the new "small claims track" scheme, through which businesses would not require legal representation, is "expected to reduce significantly the cost of pursuing IP infringement cases".

"Small firms, whose intellectual property has been infringed, will have today a simpler and easier way to take their cases forward, by writing direct to the judge and setting out the issues," Business Minister Michael Fallon said in a statement. "Lower legal costs will make it easier for entrepreneurs to protect their creative ideas where they had previously struggled to access justice in what could often be an expensive progress. A smarter and cheaper process is good for business and helping businesses make the most of their intellectual property is good for the economy."

The new procedure is the latest move by the Government to reduce the cost of IP disputes. Last year a new 'damages cap' was introduced, limiting what companies could win in copyright and trade mark infringement cases heard by the PCC to £500,000.

Other restrictions are in place on what legal costs the PCC can order parties to pay. Costs awards at the PCC cannot exceed £50,000, whereas the High Court can order parties to pay unlimited costs.

Both of these earlier "measures" have "reduced the cost and complexity of legal action for businesses," the IPO said.

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