Part 36 offers in the IP Enterprise Court
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
The Unified Patent Court (UPC) has been grabbing the headlines in recent weeks and it is easy to forget that the last six or so years have brought many major reforms to IP litigation in England and Wales. This has primarily taken the form of the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (or IPEC) and, more recently, the Shorter Trials Scheme (STS) in the High Court.
Both the IPEC and STS offer streamlined procedure and a fixed term for trial. IPEC is only concerned with claims which have an IP element where the value is under £500,000 and the issues are sufficiently simple that they can be resolved within a two day trial. The STS is potentially available to all courts situated in the Rolls Building i.e. Chancery (which includes IP), Commercial, Technology and Construction, Admiralty and Mercantile courts. The STS does not have a damages cap but the case must be straightforward enough to be heard in four days (including reading time).
The streamlining process includes limiting the number of witnesses, amount of disclosure (i.e. discovery), docketing of judges and, where possible applications which are decided on the papers rather than at a hearing. In the IPEC, simpler claims can be decided without a hearing at all.
One of the big differences between the two procedures is costs. The STS offers a respite from the costs budgeting which has become commonplace post the Jackson reforms. Instead of submitting costs budgets, the parties are required to exchange schedules of costs three weeks after trial to enable the judge to make a summary assessment.
Meanwhile, the IPEC has a series of costs caps for each stage of the proceedings plus an overall costs cap of £50,000. There have been various attempts to allow for costs outside this £50,000, most notably in Henderson v All Around the World  EWPCC 19 (27 March 2013) re the ATE insurance premium (at that time recoverable from the other side) and OOO Abbott v Design & Display Limited  EWHC 3234 (IPEC) (10 October 2014) re costs on the indemnity basis from the period after the Relevant Period for the Part 36 offer has expired at .
In both instances, the court held that both ATE premiums and indemnity costs were subject to the costs cap. This reduced the value of Part 36 offers in the IPEC and, arguably, made it harder to settle cases.
Since those cases, the Court of Appeal has considered the impact of fixed costs on Part 36 offers (Broadhurst v Tan EWCA Civ 94). The Court of Appeal concluded that Part 36 took precedence over the fixed costs. Although some of the court's reasoning was specific to personal injury cases, HHJ Hacon in a recent IPEC decision, PPL v Hagan  EWHC 3076 (IPEC) (30 November 2016) identified two principles which could apply to Part 36 offers in IPEC:
where fixed costs are intended to prevail over Part 36, the civil procedures explicitly say so ; and
if there was any doubt, the court is entitled to refer to the Explanatory Memorandum which states that, if a claimant makes a successful Part 36 offer, "the claimant will not be limited to receiving his fixed costs, but will be entitled to costs assessed on the indemnity basis..." .
On that basis HHJ Hacon concluded that both staged costs and the cap in IPEC does not apply to an award of costs under Rule 36.14(3)(b).
While this may not be the most exciting IP case of recent years, it has positive implications for IPEC litigants as it enables Part 36 offers to have a bit more bite.