The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) has an objective to provide quick and cost-effective IP litigation. It has proved to be popular.
A requirement for cheaper and quicker IP litigation was identified back in the 1980s. Small and medium-sized companies and individuals often found that traditional High Court litigation was expensive and time-consuming. Many were not prepared to enter litigation and take the risk of being liable for the other party’s costs if they were to lose.
Small and medium businesses are the core users of IPEC. It has become recognised for high-quality decisions, and larger companies are now also attracted to using it for certain cases. Such cases have a limited number of issues and will not require extensive discovery or evidence. However, IPEC has become a victim of its own success and its diary has become fairly full.
One main advantage of using IPEC is the £50,000 (USD 70,000) limit on the costs which a winning party can claim from the losing party. This does not stop either party, but it does mean that one with a limited budget can afford to try, without fearing exorbitant costs if they lose.
There is a cap on damages as well; IPEC can only award damages of up to £500,000. However, a damages award may not be the main aim of a litigant. In many IP disputes a successful outcome is a full injunction which prevents a competitor from selling a competing product or process.
It is very important to prepare an IPEC case thoroughly from the outset. IPEC does not look kindly on speculative cases; all the issues and arguments must be presented at the start. Each party needs to focus on a few key points. For example, only a limited number of patent claims will be considered for infringement or validity. There simply is not the time to consider each claim in a lengthy patent.
Trial is often only a day or two at most, providing very limited time for cross-examination and disclosure. It pays to be extremely well-prepared and succinct in arguments. It can be an extremely useful forum for settling reasonably straightforward cases quickly.