The intellectual property world has been a little quiet over the past month or so as the courts have been closed for all but the most urgent of business.  So, rather than looking back, we’re looking forward to what is coming up, and what changes might affect your business and your intellectual property strategy.
A New Law for Intellectual Property

The Intellectual Property Bill had its final reading in the House of Lords on 30 July ready to begin its progress through the House of Commons in the autumn.  There is no date yet for its first reading in the House of Commons, but when it finally becomes law, these are two things that may affect your business and the action you can take now:

Do you own that design? The Bill will be bringing UK unregistered design into line with EU unregistered design in several respects with the aim of “simplifying” the system.  Under the current UK system if you commission a design to be produced you (not the designer) own the design.  This is contrary to the EU position. Under the Bill this will be amended so that the designer, not the commissioner, will own the design.

Action for businesses: avoid the uncertainty, check that you have contracts with all freelancers , design agencies etc, which assign the IPR in designs  to you (the commissioner).

Criminal sanctions for design infringement: The Bill will make the infringement of a registered design a criminal offence.  There are already criminal offences for copyright infringement and trade mark infringement.  This could provide an extra tool for design owners to protect their IP.  If design owners want to take advantage of this provision they will likely have to collaborate with trading standards authorities.

Action for businesses: if you think this might be a tool you want to use get in touch with your local trading standards team to find out how you can work with them.  We would also be very happy to assist in creating an IP enforcement strategy which makes best use of all the enforcement options open to you.
A new name and new cost caps for the Patents County Court

From the 1 October 2013 two changes are taking place which will affect users of the Patents County Court:

Name change: the Patents County Court will be renamed the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court. The reason for the name change is to attempt to better reflect the purpose and remit of the court.  It is not limited to hearing cases about patents but rather deals with cases running the gamut of intellectual property law.

Cost caps: a more significant change is the change to the cost caps in the court.  The PCC has cost caps which limit the costs which a successful litigant can recover from the losing party.  The overall cost cap for a case on liability is £50,000 (there is a second cap of £25,000 for a inquiry into damages).

The overall cost-caps will remain the same. £50,000 is still the maximum that most successful litigants will be able to recover from the losing party;

The overall cost-caps are made up of individual caps for each stage of the claim. The Judge assessing the costs will consider the winning party’s costs under each stage, and will award a maximum of the cost cap, which in turn is subject to the overall cap. In many cases the winning party will have costs in excess of the caps and which are, for this reason, irrecoverable.

The changed cost caps coming in on 1 October 2013 is likely to mean that for many it is easier to recover the full £50,000.