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Dids MacDonald, CEO of Anti-Copying in Design (ACID), discusses cutting red tape for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with intellectual property disputes

Do you have an IP claim, but have always thought it too expensive to pursue legally? Well, help is now at hand with two new initiatives. After years of ACID lobbying, the government has listened and last week saw the announcement of a telephone mediation service to help small businesses resolve IP disputes. This exciting new initiative will underpin another recently announced service to micro and SMEs of a small claims track within the newly named Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (formerly the Patent County Court).

The idea behind a modernised Mediation Service is to make it cheaper and quicker for small businesses to resolve their intellectual property disputes. The new Mediation Service will provide alternative solutions to what can often lead to costly and lengthy court cases. It will be available to businesses involved in an IP dispute that are seeking to resolve matters without resorting to costly litigation through the courts. It will offer access to a greater variety of mediation options, including short telephone sessions; a wider range of specialist accredited mediators and reduced mediation fees.

Minister for Intellectual Property, Lord Younger, said: "For intellectual property disputes, going through the courts should be the last resort, not the first port of call. Mediation can help parties to reach agreements where a court can't. This can be crucial where the dispute involves small businesses which don't have the experience of going to court on IP matters, or who don't have the time and resources to devote to litigation. Mediation can help everybody maintain existing relationships, and potentially create new business partnerships by avoiding often messy and drawn-out litigation."

Low cost mediation
For help and advice, contact the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) Mediation Service who will advise you if telephone mediation may help to resolve your dispute.
T: +44 (0)300 300 2000, or for outside the UK T: +44 (0)1633 814 000
E: mediation@ipo.gov.uk
Or write to:
Intellectual property Office
Concept House
Cardiff Road
NP10 8QQ

In ACID's experience of more than 2,500 grass roots mediations, outcomes can be achieved which often lead to positive business relationships being forged. In any dispute it's good to talk, and the new IPO initiative to provide telephone mediation services will be a benefit to micro and SMEs. In litigation, a court is limited to the remedies it can award. However, with a skilled mediator, the parties have complete freedom and control over the outcome and the settlement terms.

Small Claims track
The newly named Intellectual Property Enterprise Court has been set up to deal with low cost IP claims. As of 1st April, 2013, claims up to £10,000 can be dealt with through this new small claims track. So often, the time, cost and scale of many opponents has made it impossible for micro and small businesses to take legal action, but that has all changed. In order to understand how to access this process, ACID has created an easy to understand step-by-step guide to the process which can be accessed through the ACID website, www.acid.uk.com

The aim of the small claims track is to speed up the court process and make it cheaper and easier to protect intellectual property (IP) rights. The small claims track will provide copyright, trademark and unregistered design holders the option of pursuing basic IP disputes through an informal hearing, without legal representation.

Michael Fallon, Business Minister, said: "Small firms, whose IP has been infringed, will now have a simpler and easier way to take their cases forward, by writing directly to the judge and setting out the issues. Lower legal costs will make it easier for entrepreneurs to protect their creative ideas where they had previously struggled to access justice in what could often be an expensive process. A smarter and cheaper process is good for business, and helping businesses make the most of their intellectual property is good for the economy." For further information, visit www.justice.gov.uk

Further information
Visit the ACID website, www.acid.uk.com

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