Too big for the Patents County Court?

Patent, trade mark, copyright and other IP disputes in the UK are always very costly. Not any more. The new rules in the “revamped” Patents County Court will make a dramatic change to that picture.

These rules, implemented in October 2010, introduce some key features: a mostly paper based procedure (similar to European Patent Office oppositions), very streamlined with no time wasted on documents just because they might be interesting or long winded experts, a trial within months lasting only a day or two, and a cap of £50,000 on the costs the loser pays.

Not every case will fit into this procedure. This case concerned the “Epi-pen”, used for injecting adrenalin to counteract violent allergic reactions – a business of some $24 million per year. The judge, HH Colin Birss QC, made it clear that he considered the court procedures suitable for such a case. However, the aim is to provide meaningful (ie affordable) access for small and medium enterprises. Since both parties here were large multinationals, the parties and High Court agreed the case could be heard quickly, it was of a high value, and one party was applying to transfer the case to the High Court, it made more sense for it to be transferred. But given the procedures, even quite complicated cases like this could be heard in the PCC even if both parties are large, if they both agree.

The court is being watched with interest from many quarters, as it is seen as a possible model for a wider range of disputes.

Alk-Abello Limited v Meredian Medical Technologies Dey Pharma (2010)