The Patents County Court Small Claims Track

In my Inventors' Club blog I wrote on the 19 Sept 2012 "Soon there will be a Remedy if Someone steals your Idea" and I followed it up with a presentation on the new court to the Sheffield Inventors Group on 1 Oct 2012 which you can download from my IP Yorkshire blog (see "How Small Businesses in Yorkshire can protect their Intellectual Property" 14 Oct 2012). I repeated that presentation to the Liverpool Inventors Club on the 29 Oct 2012.

Since those presentations I have had two cases in the small claims track from clients in the North West.   One of those cases settled very quickly but the other has been set down for hearing.

One of those cases had been started before The Civil Procedure (Amendment No.2) Rules 2012 came into effect and had to be transferred to the small claims track.  That did not go smoothly and at one point the claimant was told to apply for a case management conference even though there is no provision for such hearings in CPR Part 27 or the Part 27 Practice Direction.   However, before that could be done the district judge had another look at the court file and gave directions based on the standard directions in  Appendix B of the Part 27 Practice Direction.

In her order the judge encouraged the parties to use the free Small Claims Mediation Service at the County Courts Money Claims Centre in Salford .  There is apparently a different administrative procedure for mediating small intellectual property claims and it does not seem to be moving very quickly.

The district judge directed:
  • a final hearing 2 months from the date of the order
  • copies of the documents on which each party relies to be exchanged not less than 14 days before the date of the hearing (which documents were specified in some detail);
  • inspection of original documents;
  • the arrangements to be made should video or other electronic evidence be produced;
  • the parties not to produce expert evidence; and
  • the exchange of skeleton arguments;
and spelt out the consequences of non-compliance.

The small claims track now appears to have a room of its own in the Thomas More Building of the Royal Courts of Justice, its own clerk and telephone number.   The clerk to the district judges is J Blacbourn who can be found at room TM2.11 (Tel 020 7387 6187).

Although this procedure is intended to be used by litigants in person there are a number of pitfalls for the unwary.   Hutchinson IPJWK Solicitors and I have teamed up to offer a fixed price litigation and advocacy service for IP claims in this track.   A flat fee of £1,200 + VAT covers settling the particulars of claim or defence, a written advice on preparation of evidence, a skeleton argument and representation by me at the final hearing.   If you want to take advantage of this service please contact Tom Hutchinson of HutchinsonIP or Craig Hollingdrake of JWK.

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