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The Patents County Court is renamed to the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court

by | Oct 21, 2013

Mind Patents

The Hargreaves Review was commissioned in November 2010 by the Prime Minister with the intention of promoting innovation and growth in the UK. Essentially, the commission set out to discover whether or not the framework of the UK Intellectual Property system was up to task in the digital era. As such, it placed a specific emphasis on copyright, but there were recommendations across the Intellectual Property sector.

As of 1 October 2013, the Patents County Court has been renamed to the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) in response to the Hargreaves Review (the original webpage which was linked to can be found at this archive page). What a terrible development, I hear you cry; another acronym to remember! So what is the point of the change, and how might it affect businesses?

Of the recommendations more relevant to patent law, the commission suggested that the UK should be striving for further international co-operation, both in terms of dealing with the large backlog of patent applications, but also with unification of patent prosecution, going so far as to suggest the formation of a Europe-wide patent court. However, the most relevant recommendation of the report in this instance was to improve small firm access to Intellectual Property advice.

Intellectual Property Enterprise Court

The rebranding of the Patents County Court is part of the drive to make accessible the Intellectual Property system in the UK to those without the resources of multi-national conglomerates. For one thing, the renaming of the Court is designed to reflect its broader nature as a forum for all forms of Intellectual Property dispute, now being able to hear copyright, trade mark and unregistered design cases.

There have been several major changes to the court in recent times including: the introduction of a scale of recoverable costs, capped at £50000; a limit on awardable damages or profits of £500000; time limits on the length of case hearings of no more than 2 days; and the creation of a Small Claims Track for cases with values under £10000.

Overall, the changes are designed to make it considerably easier for small businesses to pursue infringement claims to protect their Intellectual Property rights without having to incur severe legal costs. The expectation therefore is that the simplification of prosecution of Intellectual Property cases of all varieties will encourage businesses of all sizes to invest in research and innovation without having to worry about being unable to assert their rights against larger corporations.

Clearly then, the renaming of the Patents County Court is part of a wider attempt to encourage small firms to feel engaged with the justice system in the Intellectual Property sector, which at first glance seems daunting and highly complex. As it stood, the ‘Patents’ in Patents County Court was misleading, and so replacing it with ‘Intellectual Property’ as a more general term seems to make sense, given the court’s role.

Still, what would have been wrong with the name ‘Intellectual Property County Court’? The court has retained the jurisdiction of the PCC and therefore remains a county court, albeit one with special jurisdiction over Intellectual Property disputes.

Perhaps the real reason for the ‘Enterprise’ returns us to acronyms. An ‘Intellectual Property County Court’ or ‘IPCC’ would have had to compete with the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These organisations have major brand recognition with which the court would have been competing. Clearly it was felt that the IPEC stood a better chance of standing out over the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, an organisation dubiously dropping the ‘L’ from its acronym.

Overall, the change from PCC to IPEC is a positive one, better reflecting the role of the court. The wider reforms implemented as a result of the Hargreaves Review should make it easier for small enterprises to protect their Intellectual Property.

For advice and guidance relating to your Intellectual Property rights, contact the attorneys at Albright IP.


  • Dr Will Doherty

    Will graduated from the University of Oxford with an MChem in Chemistry and a DPhil in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry. His postdoctoral research focussed on the creation and magnetic trapping of ultracold matter, during which time he studied a broad spectrum of topics across the physical sciences. He previously worked for a computer software firm, joining Albright IP in 2013.

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