Saturday 18 December 2010

Keeping down the price of copyright justice

Copyright litigation in the UK has traditionally been an expensive process – but with a new procedure this may be changing.

The Patents County Court (PCC) was set up in 1990 to provide a cheaper alternative to the High Court for litigating IP disputes. But it was not a success and the introduction of the Civil Procedure Rules in 1998 meant there was no difference in procedure or costs between the PCC and the High Court.

Concerns over the cost of IP litigation continued, however, and have led to new procedures for the PCC which came into force on 1 October. These new rules have been extensively discussed over on the PatLit blog, but – who knows? – may turn out to be even more important in the copyright world, where low-value infringement and impecunious claimants abound.

The new procedures include (as the Judiciary of England and Wales website explains):

—the parties set out their respective cases fully but concisely at the outset.
—no further evidence, written argument or specific disclosure will be permitted without the permission of the judge. This will be a matter considered at the case management conference.
—any other applications will if possible be dealt with on paper or by telephone.
—the trial will be limited to one or at most two days.
—recoverable costs are capped. The total recoverable is capped at £50,000 for the final determination of liability and at £25,000 for enquiries as to damages or accounts of profits.

As a result the PCC seems to have been exceptionally busy over the last two and a half months. It has attracted copyright cases involving such controversial individuals as Andrew Crossley of ACS:Law and Vivienne Westwood. The downmarket IP court has wasted no time in rolling up its sleeves and getting its hands dirty – with copyright infringement claims ranging from the porn film 5 Linsey Dawn McKenzie Films on Tape to Vivienne Westwood’s design ‘I love crap’.

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