The Patents County Court has been rejuvenated under the leadership of Judge Birss QC and has been hailed a great attraction as a forum for SMEs to enforce their IP rights and to defend themselves. However it has not, as yet, seen any patent cases. However, this may be about to change. Our sources inform us that there are currently at least two patents cases in the PCC system and in each at least one of the parties is much too large a company to be described as an SME .... .
It seems that this might signal the start of increased use of the PCC by companies large and small as a forum for litigating patents. Not all patent cases will be suitable for the PCC but a number of factors suggest that we might see more patent cases there in the future.
First, it has been recognised that the cap on damages and costs is not necessarily set in stone. If the industry demand for these to be increased is demonstrated, the caps could be reassessed.
Secondly, as the procedures of the PCC and the quick and efficient manner in which the cases are run become more widely known, it may develop into a more popular forum for international litigants. The PCC provides a sort of hybrid between the traditional English justice system and that of the Continent. As such it may serve as a useful prototype for the much discussed projected European Unitary Patent Court system. Cross-examination, expert evidence and disclosure, for example, are available in the PCC but are more closely controlled by the judge in order to limit costs.
Overall the PCC may provide a good value forum for the right sort of patent case. Examples are situations where damages are minimal, such as in a revocation action, or where action is started before an infringing product is launched.