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Patent law reform boosts SME rights

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SMEs are set to benefit from a new law that comes into force today, making it easier for them to protect their patent rights.

A damages cap of £500,000 for claims made in the Patents County Court (PCC) means that small businesses claiming damages up to that amount are less likely to face a potentially more expensive trip to the High Court.

The Patents County Court (Financial Limit) Order 2011 will ensure that lower value, less complex cases – in which SMEs would typically be involved – will automatically fall within the jurisdiction of the PCC. 

In the past, some firms have been put off from protecting their rights due to the uncertainty of how much it would cost: a legal case worth less than £500,000 could face litigation in either the PCC or the High Court with unknown levels of financial risk.

“We must offer businesses a more accessible justice system to enforce their rights,” says Baroness Wilcox, minister for intellectual property. 

“These changes will help small businesses and encourage them to innovate. It will also provide clarity over the legal processes, certainty over the risks and give small enterprises the confidence to stand on an equal footing with financially stronger companies.”

Work is also now underway to expand the law further so the damages cap will cover cases of copyright and trade marks in the PCC.

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John Cheney
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