Over the past few weeks, we have held up a mirror to how IPEC disputes are being run by English law firms and the bar. We have called out ways in which fee generation is taking priority over using IPEC in the way in which it was intended. We have encouraged brand owners to take more control of their IPEC disputes; and have pushed both solicitors and barristers to keep fees down in IPEC.
Our campaign has sparked debate online and in the press. Law firms and IPEC users alike have contacted us with their own experiences of the behaviours we have highlighted. Judge Hacon has also remarked to us (in response to our open letter to him) that he considers that the views of those who use IPEC are all too often filtered before they reach him.
Following CMS’s recent report into IPEC and our letter, Judge Hacon has invited further feedback on IPEC to be sent directly to him, which the IPEC judges will then review and discuss. We encourage brand owners and the legal profession alike to write to Judge Hacon with their views and suggestions.
A number of themes have emerged during our campaign, as follows:
IPEC should be a great example of the ability to bring a claim to trial in an efficient and cost-effective way – handing brand owners of all size a (relatively) easy forum to protect their most valuable assets. As is clear from the quotes we included in our article on the judiciary, David Stone (a current IPEC judge) is proof of a modern judge gripping what IPEC is there for and sending a clear message to lawyers when they overstep the bounds. This approach is of paramount importance if IPEC is to be made fit for purpose.
City firms should embrace IPEC as a forum where the next generation of IP lawyers can cut their teeth. It should be partner and QC – lite, with associates and junior counsel running IPEC claims, giving them the reins and the experience of litigation at the helm while also keeping costs down. This would reflect the way that barristers often approach UKIPO cases, with junior barristers getting far more responsibility in the UKIPO and no leading counsel. IPEC is not the place for senior partners with charge-out rates of £500+.
However, unless or until brand owners feel empowered to tell their lawyers to change their litigation strategy and fee practices in IPEC, things are unlikely to change.
We hope that our campaign has brought cost generating behaviours in IPEC to the forefront of the minds of brand owners, law firms, barristers, and the judiciary alike. We eagerly await a response from Judge Hacon and the other IPEC judges and will report back then.
In the meantime, please do get in touch with us with your own views and thoughts on this topic. Stobbs will be chairing a panel on this topic once the judiciary response is in and if you are interested in contributing or attending then please do let us know!