English civil procedure underwent amendment with effect from 1 October 2015 to introduce a two-year pilot scheme allowing (a) shortened and (b) so-called “flexible” trials.  The pilot scheme is running in the Patents Court among others, and therefore is of potential interest to those wishing to litigate intellectual property rights.  The aim of both the new trial types is to increase efficiency, economy and proportionality in legal disputes.

Invoking the pilot schemes requires the express consent of the parties to an action, although the court may encourage entry into the schemes in appropriate cases.  Parties may subsequently apply to opt out of the schemes.

The Shorter Trial procedure is intended to ensure that claims reach trial within ten months of issue.  The maximum trial duration under this regime is four days.

Claimants wishing to make use of the Shorter Trial option must inform defendants, in their letters of claim, of a wish to use the procedure.

Statements of case then must be no more than twenty pages in length; and particulars of claim must be served with the claim form.

Claims that fall within the Shortened Trial procedure are subject to limits applying to extensions of time to comply with procedural obligations, disclosure, and oral evidence, including expert evidence.  Trial management will also apply, with limits applied to the amounts of time a party may utilise during the trial itself.  Costs will be subject to summary assessment.

This procedure is not generally suitable for cases that require extensive disclosure, witness or expert witness evidence; involve multiple issues or parties, or proceed in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) (which is a specialist branch of the Patents Court that already benefits from a highly efficient procedure).  When determining whether a claim is suitable, consideration will also need to be given to the financial value of the dispute.

The Flexible Trial procedure enables parties to adapt the trial procedure to their requirements.  This will enable parties to agree to limit disclosure, expert and other evidence and submissions.

The new procedures have the potential significantly to simplify some intellectual property disputes, saving time and money for litigants in some classes of case in the UK.  We can provide additional information for these wishing to take advantage of the pilot schemes.