Tuesday 12 January 2016

E- Filing at The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court and a plea for sensible fees

Electronic working with IPEC - wonderful I thought last November (Friday 13th) when I saw that a new Practice Direction had been issued to say that all Rolls Building Courts could be accessed electronically and not just by the fortunate few, such as myself, who have offices round the corner.

The scheme had been piloted through the Technology and Construction Court but I don't have friends who practise there. Wandering aimlessly round the Internet I discovered C-Track™ E-Filing, developed by Thomson Reuters Court Management Solutions. I wasn't at the time quite sure that was the thing but I registered anyway.  Fortunately now there is more information to help us on Judiciary.gov.uk website so start here. There is link to the Practice Direction and to the Home Page of CE-File which is the name for the new service. The Judiciary claim this puts them in the forefront of modern technology around the world - a bold claim indeed.

The CE-File home page contains a link to a USER GUIDE. If all else fails read the guide and wandering aimlessly in CE-File is not a rewarding experience, trust me, but the user guide is very straightforward. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a demo option so you can test drive without the stress of a live case. The system is available for Litigants in Person as well as Solicitors and Patent and Trademark Agents.

How are you going to pay the fees. Credit Card is an option here as is Fee Account with the Court Service. Now fees can be rather large and my business credit card doesn't go very high and a £10000 fee might be OK on your card but I don't have American Express so that won't do nicely.  Accordingly I explored the possibility of a Fee Account. Normally I pay fees with a debit card at the counter at the Rolls Building.

Here is the page on Justice for fee accounts. The link to the terms and conditions sends you here which provides an application form and a leaflet explaining the system but no ts & cs. I have emailed the designated address to ask for them since in this case I felt that I probably would Be considered to have read them when I tick the box to say that I had on the application form. As a consumer, of course, I blithely tick I have read terms and conditions boxes without doing so but in this case I'm acting in my professional capacity and I can't treat the court service the same way as I do Apple.

The application form for a fee account presented no particular difficulties and I hope that it will get more response than my request for such an account with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Fee accounts are available for a variety of types of organisations not just solicitors but as a patent or trademark agent you can say you are legal firm. If I ever see the terms and conditions I will let you know whether my application succeeds.

As a solo practitioner I nearly fell down at the requirement for a secondary contact. I've given them my next of kin. I'm not sure what he will do when he is contacted by her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal service.

The fee account service is a direct debiting system from your business account. Therefore, you can make sure there are sufficient assets to cover any ginormous fees. Even so, I had some doubts about what credit limit I should ask for. It's not very often I'm going to be issuing two claim forms a week, but even so, if you ask for a very large credit limit and have a fat finger moment you could make a serious dent/hole given with the level of fees that are now expected by the court service. It really is time that IPEC persuaded The Ministry of Justice that issuing a claim in IPEC should be subject to a reasonably circumscribed fee and that an appropriate proportion of any damages awarded should be paid back to the court. That way the court wouldn't suffer but the level of fees would not be a barrier to access of justice.

If you are a CE-File user please let us know your thoughts