Saturday 27 October 2012

Protect your art via a new small claims procedure in England and Wales

Will one of these RCA secret artists benefit
from the new procedure?
On 1 October 2012, a new procedure was introduced for most intellectual property claims in England and Wales. I wrote an article for The Guardian, which explains the background and the details. You can read it here.

Essentially the small claims track is a simplified judicial process which has previously been available for a wide range of low value legal claims in the UK but, significantly, not IP. As I said in The Guardian:
“It is hoped that the new system will provide access to justice for people such as photographers and designers whose works are regularly infringed, but for whom the costs of bringing legal action are often too great compared to the potential benefit of, for example, a licence fee for the photograph. I acted on a pro bono basis for a photographer who took a series of photographs for a business brochure, but subsequently saw the images on a commercial website and in a range of other publications, all without his permission. The new system will make it easier for people like him to take action to stop that happening.

The small claims track will only cover claims for straightforward copyright, registered trade mark and/or unregistered design infringement. The Patents County Court (PCC) will hear all IP claims made under the small claims track. Patents, registered designs and other claims not covered by the small claims procedure can still be brought under a streamlined procedure in the PCC, potentially with an agreed cost or damages cap. However, this procedure is more complex and expensive."
Key points:

  • It covers claims worth up to £5,000 (rising to £10,000) in 2013, the exact date is currently unclear. 
  • It only applies to very simple cases. The small claims track is not suitable if, for example, you can’t easily prove ownership, the infringement isn’t complete copying or there are other difficulties such as the infringer may be able to rely on one of the many obscure defences hidden within the copyright designs and patents act. 
  • It doesn’t cover patents and registered designs.  However, a whole range of rights from performer’s and moral rights to plant varieties are covered by the new procedure. 
Finally, there are a number of groups who help guide artists through the thorny rights issues such as Anti Copying in Design (ACID) and the Design and Copyright Society (DACS). These groups help to support artists and, in the case of DACS, collect royalties on behalf of artists. Links to these groups and many more are available on the Art & Artifice side bar.

Have you used the new small claims system? If you have any questions or comments - let us know.

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