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THE government is making it easier for small businesses to deal with intellectual property disputes by cutting red tape and by introducing an enhanced mediation service. The new service is an attempt to make it both cheaper and quicker for small and medium sized businesses to resolve intellectual property disputes, by enabling them to avoid costly court cases and achieve a mediated solution by alternative means. One of the chief features of the

revised service will be greater flexibility, with businesses able to access advice through short telephone interviews, reduced mediation fees and a wider range of specialist mediation advisors. Expert intellectual property

solicitor Dr Michael Servian of Freeth Cartwright’s Stoke office welcomed the changes. He says, “Cutting red tape for small businesses and enabling them to resolve disputes more expeditiously is an excellent step forward and a significant improvement in legal provisions for intellectual property. Avoiding litigation in the courts in the first instance is to be advised, and where mediation is possible it will offer significant benefits to clients, in particular to new businesses who will be able to more swiftly deal with disputes without diverting energy from their day-to-day

business.” When the previous

intellectual property mediation service was established in 2006, it was intended to have the same goals as the new system. However, it hasn’t been used as much as it was intended and it was limited in its scope. The latest changes should make mediation a more attractive and less risky route for many small businesses than disputing in court.

Dr Servian adds,”It remains

to be seen, however, how many companies will choose mediation; although, when it comes to the question of recovery of legal costs, judges can be expected to take a very dim view of a company that decided to go straight to court without very good reasons” One of the benefits of mediation is that it keeps the door open for a solution that suits the parties on both sides of a dispute, such as cross- licensing agreements. This enables both parties to sell their products within the marketplace

rather than one eliminating the other..

The current Minister for

Intellectual Property, Lord Younger, will certainly be hoping that the changes make the mediation service the first port of call for resolving disputes concerning intellectual property. When he announced the changes, he said: “Mediation can help parties to reach agreements where a court cannot. This can be crucial where the dispute involves small businesses who don’t have the experience of going to court on such 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.” Cutting red tape will be

welcomed by restaurant owners many of whom have faced intellectual property ‘theft’ in recent times. It is hoped the new mediation service will help to speed up dispute resolution and protect innovation. n


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