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Introduction of a Small Claims Track for Intellectual Property Disputes

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Until very recently, small businesses and individuals faced a significant problem in protecting their intellectual property rights. Bringing a claim of enforcement was prohibitively expensive and taking legal action in respect of intellectual property infringement was beyond the means of most people and businesses.

In October a small claims track was been introduced to the Patents County Court. It is hoped that this will speed up the court process and make bringing a claim of intellectual property infringement a financially viable option. The small claims track will give copyright, trademark and unregistered design holders the option of pursing basic intellectual property disputes through an informal hearing. Claims allocated to the small claims track will be subject to damages restrictions of £5,000 or less. Business Minister Michael Fallon commented: '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'. It is very much hoped that this new procedural system will benefit individuals and small businesses particularly those whose rights may be regularly infringed but have previously been financially restricted from bringing legal action.

The small claims track will hopefully give smaller businesses and creative entrepreneurs greater confidence and certainty in bringing a claim. A cap on costs should allay fears of a large costs award being given against someone bringing a claim should they lose. The new changes outlined above are welcomed. However only time will tell as to whether the new system will prove effective in providing justice to owners of intellectual property rights who had previously been realistically unable to bring a claim.