UK government to provide guidance on obtaining website blocking orders in copyright cases

Out-Law News | 16 May 2016 | 4:58 pm | 2 min. read

The UK government will help rights holders to clamp down on online copyright infringement by explaining what evidence they will need to build up to win website blocking orders before the courts, according to new plans it has set out.

Under the intellectual property (IP) enforcement strategy 2020 (44-page / 18.61MB PDF) the government will also "champion" the use of injunctions that enforce IP rights "where necessary", it said.

"We will continue our work to support businesses of any size to navigate and utilise the civil court system by improving the guidance that is currently available, including guidance on the minimum levels of evidence required for website blocking orders, and by ensuring that court judgments and cases are published on a regular and consistent basis," the strategy paper said. "We will continue to work with private and public sector partners to monitor the effectiveness of injunctions, and champion their use where necessary."

Website blocking orders to enforce against infringements of copyright can be obtained in certain circumstances under Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. UK courts have also sanctioned website blocking orders in a case relating to trade mark infringement, although this is the subject of an appeal.

The UK government also pledged to carry out a comprehensive review of "all existing methods of legal recourse for IP infringement to ensure they are effective, consistent and proportionate across all IP rights". It said it also wants to make sure UK companies and rights holders "have the necessary legal means to protect their IP, as well as ensuring that effective action can be taken against criminality".

New legislation could be brought to combat "persistent and criminal" counterfeiting and infringement by intermediaries, including in the case of internet service providers, platforms and search engines, it said. In addition, the government will also review notice and takedown procedures in an effort to "improve and streamline the process" of removing infringing content online. It will look into whether there is scope for a new code of practice for notice and takedown procedures to be introduced for intermediaries, it said.

Steps to encourage businesses to resolve IP rights disputes out of court will also be taken, the government said. "We will … encourage and facilitate dispute resolution through the use of the IPO Opinions Services and mediation facilities," it said.

The government said that it will further explore "whether there is sufficient demand" for "an IPEC-style system" to be introduced into the courts in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The IPEC (Intellectual Property Enterprise Court) is operational in England and Wales.

In 2010, the IPEC, under its previous guise of the Patents County Court, was reformed with the intention of providing a judicial forum for small businesses to resolve IP disputes in a speedier and more cost-effective way than is available to them at the High Court. The reforms placed a cap on costs and damages that successful litigants can recover in cases brought before the IPEC, and introduced procedural changes designed to shorten the length of trials and decision making process.