Number of businesses taking intellectual property battles to enterprise IP court hits new record
The number of small businesses taking intellectual property battles to the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court has hit a new record of 367 in the last year, says Hugh James, the Top 100 law firm.
The number of claims heard by the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court in 2017 has risen 8% from 339 in just the last year and is up by over a quarter (28%) over the last five years.
The IPEC is a specialist court set up to help small businesses protect their intellectual property and covers claims worth up to £500k.
Hugh James explains that the rise is driven in part by an increased awareness amongst SMEs of the need to protect their IP. Growing numbers of technology companies, in particular, are using the court, as IP will often represent their most valuable asset.
Over the last decade, the financial incentive to protect IP assets has grown as they can be an important part of a company’s valuation. Businesses can also use the value of their IP to secure finance to invest in future growth and expansion.
Hugh James adds that the re-launch of the IPEC in 2010 has made the court more accessible to SMEs. Streamlined procedures have aided in speeding up cases, thereby reducing the time and money spent by businesses in court. A £50k cap was also introduced on the amount of costs that are recoverable from the losing side.
Tracey Singlehurst-Ward, partner at Hugh James, said:
“Small businesses are increasingly showing that they are prepared to go all the way to the courts to protect their IP.
“While manufacturing companies continue to make up a large proportion of the companies bringing cases to the IPEC, more technology companies are using it now to protect their assets.
“IP rights are often central to the entire business strategy of a company, especially those in the technology sector. IP can encompass a wide variety of assets and can include not only traditional patents and designs, but also other assets found in copyright protected works and confidential information.
“IP, as opposed to a tangible, physical product, is increasingly central to businesses’ brands, particularly in the technology sector. As a result, there is more at stake for companies to protect their IP, all the way to the IPEC if necessary. We have also seen a particular rise in the number of claims over trade mark infringements.
“While the large majority of SMEs who enter into a dispute over IP will settle out of court, there is still plenty of headroom for the number of disputes to grow. These figures represent just a small part of a much bigger trend of businesses being more proactive to protect their IP.”