Thursday, 8 October 2015

Enterprise Court

His Honour Judge Hacon
Yesterday (7 October 2015) AIPPI organised a lecture given by the first and so far only Enterprise Judge, Judge Hacon  and I needed to write up a few notes, so here they are In case they are of use too. There were lots of other issues raised and stories related (including an in-depth history of the extremely enterprising litigation career of the now bankrupt patentee and fencing inventor, Mr Perry) but these were the points I wanted to recall.

Court Fees

 Since March court fees for money claims have gone up at a rate which is particularly punitive to IPEC clients and it is good to know that the judge is concerned about this and would welcome feedback. However, since, in the preceding 6 months to the end of September 2015 there have been 326 cases of which 220 are in the multitrack, it does not appear that the fee increase has had a devastating effect, though it would be interesting to know what values had been put on the new claim submitted after March.

The judge pointed out the extreme undesirability of saying that your damages were unquantifiable as this results in an automatic £10,000 fee. However, he saw no problem in quoting a relatively low value and then adjusting it when the actual value was more apparent. The increased fee would be payable at the time of adjustment and clearly making multiple adjustments was deprecated but the timing of the adjustment might well be problematic too. If a defendant has relied upon the value claimed, a late stage adjustment might be a shock. On the other hand if the defendant has deliberately suppressed the extent of his activities, he might not qualify for great deal of sympathy from the court.
The proposal to make no initial money claim was also mooted and it is in that context you might be leading the defendant up the garden path most, If you then seek an enquiry only after safely succeeding on liability.

Interim injunctions 

The judge was keen to stress that these are available in his court and that since he has both deputies and nominated High Court judges, a judge will always be found. The judge envisages that these will not be ex parte injunctions and that the parties will try themselves to agree an evidence timetable and speak to his clerk to fix a date for the substantive hearing.

Leeds

Would northern litigants please note that the judge is willing and indeed eager to sit in Leeds or other cities which have judge's lodgings with butlers and wine lists. Apparently the litigants whose case was to be heard in Leeds recently decided to settle their differences and the Judge's excursion to northern climes was cancelled.

Publication of small claims case summaries 

We have previously discussed on this blog the desirability of publishing more information about what goes on in the small claims track. Apparently a format for publishing case summaries possibly on the UK IPO website has been agreed but none has as yet emerged. Now that memory has been jogged, perhaps we will see progress.

Pro Bono

The judge encouraged us all to volunteer for the pro bono scheme which he indicated would require both case officers and lawyers willing to commit some pro bono hours. The idea was that the case officer would not provide legal advice but be someone who would be on the client's side and be responsible for finding advisers and possibly encouraging transfer to paid arrangements when appropriate. CIPA/ITMA members have already been encouraged to sign up but clearly the judge feels that law firms with allocations of agreed pro bono hours should be utilised too.

Enforcement

Failing to pay your IPEC costs order is considered  a serious omission by the judge and he is prepared to  grant applications for such a debtor to appear before him to discuss such a default. In one case, the debtor failed to appear and a bench warrant was issued. He was subsequently arrested by the police and brought to the court and the parties were able to agree a compromise and imprisonment proved to be unnecessary.



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