What happens if someone infringes your IP?
Except for bootlegging, counterfeiting and piracy, intellectual property infringement is no crime. Enforcement is therefore the responsibility of the intellectual property owner - that is to say you - and nobody else.

Civil Proceedings

Intellectual property rights are usually enforced by proceedings in the civil courts.   Regrettably IP litigation remains expensive in England and Wales though much less expensive than it once was.  Because of the cost of litigation, anyone seeking patent or other legal protection for an intellectual asset is urged to consider taking out intellectual property insurance at the same time.


In 2003 IPAC (HM Government's high level advisory committee on intellectual property) published "The Enforcement of Patent Rights". At page 50 of this report IPAC compared the cost of a patent infringement action in the Patents Court and Patents County Court with similar proceedings in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the USA. The costs in the continental countries ranged between €10,000 for a summary proceedings in the Netherlands to €50,000 for a trial in France and Germany. The costs in the Patents Court were about £1 million. Even in the Patents County Court costs ranged from £150,00 to £250,000. Costs in the USA were even higher than in the UK ranging from US$2 to 4 million and upwards. However, these were mitigated by the fact that costs do not usually follow the event and US lawyers can accept instructions on a contingency basis.   The cost of intellectual property litigation in the Patents County Court will shortly be capped at £50,000 for proceedings on liability and £25,000 for accounts and inquiries.

Alternatives to Litigation

Fortunately there are alternatives to civil litigation:
  • Intellectual Property Office  Tribunals appointed by the chief executive share concurrent jurisdiction with the courts on such matters as declarations of non-infringement and the validity of trade marks and registered designs. Costs in these tribunals are limited to a few thousand pounds.
  • Opinions on Validity and Infringement   Patent examiners can now give opinions on whether a patent is valid and whether it has been infringed for £200. 
  • Domain Name Disputes   ICANN, the international domain name authority, requires every generic domain name registrar - that is to say registrars of non-geographic domain names such as ".com", ".org", ".net", ".info" and so on - to insert into their registration agreements a clause referring all challenges to the registration by trade mark owners to arbitration. These challenges are usually resolved within a a few months for around US$1,500, Nominet, the UK domain name authority, inserts a similar clause into its ".uk" registration agreements.
  • Mediation  Mediation is chaired negotiation. A trusted third party known as "the mediator" explores the dispute with the parties and helps them find a solution with which they can both live. The IPO and WIPO already offer mediation services. NIPC Mediation offers low cost specialist mediation for disputes involving start-ups and other small businesses.
  • Arbitration  Arbitration is a dispute resolution procedure by which the parties choose the tribunal that will resolve their dispute and the rules and procedure by which the tribunal will determine it.. WIPO offers international arbitration while NIPC Arbitration offers low cost specialist arbitration for start-ups and small businesses.
Professional Help

You can obtain advice and assistance from counsel and solicitors specializing in IP or from patent or trade mark attorneys with rights of audience or rights to conduct litigation in the civil courts. Most counsel specializing in IP litigation belong to the Intellectual Property Bar Association and most specialist law firms to the Intellectual Property Lawyers Association. NIPC Law offers specialist intellectual property services to inventors and small businesses,