From 1 October 2015, two pilot schemes have been introduced for those courts located in the Rolls Building, including the Patents Court. These “shortened” and “flexible” trial procedures may be of interest to those involved in intellectual property disputes.

The pilot schemes are scheduled to last for two years and both procedures are aimed at making commercial litigation cheaper and simpler. The use of either procedure requires the express consent of all the parties to an action, however in some cases entry to the schemes may be actively encouraged by the court.

The Shortened Trial scheme aims to conclude disputes within a commercial timescale. Cases will be dealt with by the same judge throughout with the aim of reaching trial within ten months of issue. The trial itself will be a maximum length of four days. The claimant must notify the defendant in its letter of claim that it intends to issue under the shortened trial procedure. Particulars of claim must be served with the claim form and statements of case should be no more than 20 pages long. There are also limits on extensions of time, disclosure and oral evidence.

Under the Flexible Trial scheme, parties will be allowed to tailor the trial procedure to suit their particular case. The procedure is designed to encourage parties to limit disclosure and confine oral evidence to a minimum. The aim is to reduce costs, reduce the time required for trial and to allow earlier trial dates to be obtained.

The new schemes have the potential to simplify significantly a number of intellectual property disputes. It is hoped that the procedures will bring about a change in the culture of litigation, through recognition that comprehensive disclosure and a full oral trial on all issues is often not necessary for justice to be achieved. In turn that recognition should lead to significant savings in the time and costs of litigation.