IM-MEDIATE NOT LITIGATE

The use of ADR to resolve intellectual property (IP) conflicts is a subject that “lies at the intersection of two rapidly growing branches of law.” IP comprises exclusive rights to novel ideas as contained in tangible products of cognitive effort, which, due to its complexity and need for expert evidence, creates a lengthy and expensive litigation process. Mediation has the potential to offer an inexpensive, faster and more user friendly solution for the protection of IP rights and also for the defence against claims that can be brought or threatened by larger corporations against SME’s or individuals, by way of intimidation due to the threat of extensive legal costs and it should be mandatory.

The evolution of the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) in london, has gone some way to reducing the burden of IP litigation, since its inception. The court is run by a specialist IP judiciary, who manage the cases, so that discovery and the use of expert evidence is kept to a minimum. There are three case Tracks, the Multi-Track (MT) for cases with a value in excess of £50,000, a Fast Track (FT) for cases valued between £25,000 and £50,000 and a Small Claims Track (SCT), for cases worth £10,000 and £25,000. Damages and costs are capped. The SCT in particular, is of particular benefit to holders of IP rights that are valuable to the holder, but which do not have extensive commercial value, as there are fixed costs of £260 and IP owner can conduct the case as a litigant in person. The IPEC also sits on circuit in a number of court centres around the country, where the specialist judges hear these cases. The weakness in the SCT is that injunctive relief is not yet available, unlike in the MT and FT. This undermines the benefit of these reforms to IP litigation, as the Claimant in an IP case is more often seeking an injunction than an award of damages, the object being to bring the infringing act to a conclusion.

An alternative way to bring a swift end to infringing activity is to mediate. In a global world where the markets are chasing ‘The Next Best Thing’ most businesses cannot afford to litigate, either time wise or cost wise. Once a product is successful in getting to market, other creators are looking to cash in on that success by creating something newer and better. IP must be enforced in an efficient, effective and proportionate way. When a report to evaluate the IPEC was published in June 2015, all respondents stated that litigation was typically a last resort, but there were a number of negative comments on the usefulness of ADR/mediation and the Report did not find strong support for expanding its role. There was however, a view that the Allocation Questionnaire could be redesigned to force parties to take further steps to convince the court that they had engaged in settlement or mediation negotiations before commencing litigation. This is insufficient and shortsighted and contrary to the findings of the 2006 Gower’s Review which focused on the use of alternative methods of dispute resolution, which not only provide a low cost alternative to litigation but could help to avoid the negative aspects of conflict, such as damage to reputation, lost customers, damage to company morale, as well as the large costs implications.

At the date of the Gower’s Review, the cost of mediating was £3,000 with a high proportion of cases, 70%, referred to mediation, going on to reach settlement. The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) established the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre in 1994 on a not for profit basis. This has been recognised as an international and neutral forum and the Centre also works as a resource centre to raise awareness of the valuable role that ADR can play in different sectors. As the Gower’s review pointed out, mediation and other ADR methods are currently poorly used and understood for IP. The old Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) promoted the use of ADR for years, but some judges were reluctant to encourage parties to mediate and large companies were also reluctant to engage, in case they were perceived as being weak. The Gower’s Review recommended strengthening the Practice Directions to provide greater encouragement for parties to mediate, which would raise the profile of mediation with the judiciary. The Review hesitated to impose further incentives to mediate, such as mandatory mediation as individuals have a right of access to the courts under Article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998. This view does not bear scrutiny because mediation does not prevent access to the court system, it is an alternative method or resolution or an early step in the overall litigation process.

A working example can be found in the Philippines, where the Intellectual Property Office (IPOPHL) has taken steps to establish a strong and balanced IP regime that is conducive to business and industry. One of the challenges to the enforcement of IPR’s in the Philippines was the speedy disposal of cases and to address that concern, a number of reforms were introduced and implemented. One of these reforms was the introduction of the mandatory referral of IP cases for mediation. Once a case had been filed in the Originating Office, it was referred to ADR Services and the parties can choose between IPOPHL or WIPO mediation. Amongst the Best Practices in Mediation identified by the IPOPHL, was the mandatory referral for mediation, which gives the parties an opportunity to explore their own option for settlement without necessarily limiting their position in the litigation process. There is also the benefit that as the mediation is mandatory, parties such as large corporations will not see themselves as being weak by participating in it, as they have no choice.

Mediation has been described as the ‘sleeping giant of IP disputes’ and in the US, its use in patent disputes has been lauded. In addition to the many benefits that ADR provides to the parties, judges are seriously looking for new ways to reduce their caseloads and are turning to ADR to assist with case management, as referring a case to ADR means that between 60 to 80% of the time, the case will settle, thereby relieving the judges caseload. In the UK, the use of mandatory mediation may be the best method of early case management for IP judges, who then have the benefit of taking the case once the issues have been narrowed down, prior to the pleading stage. The Gower’s Review and subsequently, the Hargreaves Review in 2011 both missed a valuable opportunity to encourage this scheme in the UK.

Whilst the IPEC may be less overburdened than other sections of the legal system after the Covid 19 lockdowns, there will undoubtedly be a backlog of cases. On a positive note, the use of remote hearings has proliferated in the last 18 months and this cannot be underestimated in the overall reduction of costs. The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) which has long offered a mediation service, now offers that service online. The IPO website sets out details of the service, but the cost of mediation is about £250 per person for an eight hour mediation session, with the price reduced accordingly for shorter sessions. This compares to just over £400 per person plus room hire, for the same period of time.

The IPO mediation service represents a particularly cost effective way for individuals and SME’s in particular, to settle IP disputes with the assistance of an experienced IP mediator. The IPO has the independence, expertise and resources to provide mediation in a cost effective way, if the Government were to make it mandatory. This would reduce the burden on the IPEC and the judiciary and ensure that IP right holders could obtain maximum benefit from their IP. There is no detriment to the parties from engaging in this process and there is everything to gain. There will still be cases that proceed to litigation, but early independent intervention has the potential to take the heat out the situation and identify what exactly the parties are hoping to achieve, whether that is injunctive relief or a financial settlement.

JANE FOULSER MCFARLANE © 2021

UK IPO invites IP Wales to explain new trade secrets law for SMEs

Image by VIN JD from Pixabay

Shh! The importance of keeping your trade secrets, secret
We receive many customer queries on patents, trade marks, copyright and designs, but we find less is known about trade secrets. We asked Andrew Beale OBE of IP Wales, an award-winning SME business support initiative, to explain what a trade secret is, how it applies to businesses and how it can be protected.” (UK IPO Blog 5th July 2021)

IP Wales is indebted to the UK Intellectual Property Office for this invitation, as an “industry expert from the world of IP”, to explain on its blog for its readers these important matters.

The introduction into UK law of the Trade Secrets (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2018 has proved a useful reminder to all firms, whatever their size, that trade secrets can be a valuable business asset.

Questions addressed for businesses during the course of the article include:-

How do I recognise my trade secrets?

What constitutes the “reasonable steps” now demanded of business in order to protect their trade secrets?

How does a business legally preserve its trade secrets?

Why is it important to educate and train staff about trade secrets?

How does my business risk manage its cybersecurity?

The online threat to trade secrets during the current pandemic has never been greater, which is why IP Wales has developed free guidance to help SMEs better manage their IP cybersecurity (see www.ipcybersecurity.com).

The preservation of commercially sensitive information during litigation

(Image by 726056 by pixabay)

Issues of confidentiality often arise in litigation under procurement challenges, as illustrated in the recent case of Bechtel v High Speed Two (HS2) [2021] EWHC 458.

In this case Mr Justice Fraser noted, “[I]n my judgment, the level of profit in percentage terms that a tenderer included in its bid in this procurement competition is properly described as commercially confidential, and is also something that any tenderer, whether a claimant in proceedings or otherwise, would wish to keep confidential for justifiable reasons.”[35]

In terms of how to retain the confidentiality of such information during litigation, it is contrary to open justice and transparency to have trials conducted (even partially) in secret for all but those legal representatives who sit within a court’s prescribed ‘confidentiality ring’.

At the same time judgements need to be readily comprehensible and include reference to all relevant material and reasoning of the the judge, so having a separate confidential appendix or schedule in a judgement should only occur when there is no viable alternative.

In the circumstances of the present case Mr Justice Fraser concluded there was no viable alternative available to him, for without such a confidential appendix to his judgement (available only to those within the ‘confidentiality ring’), he “would run the real risk of destroying justified confidentiality in commercial issues.”[34]

Understanding TSR and its “curious provision”

Lord Justice Arnold

Giving judgement in the Court of Appeal case Shenzhen Senior Technology Material Co Ltd v Celgard, LLC [2020] EWCA Civ 1293 Lord Justice Arnold has shone a further light on the UK Trade Secrets (Enforcement, etc.) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/597) [TSR].

Dividing his analysis into pre/post the EU Trade Secrets Directive (EU Dir. 2016/943) Arnold LJ noted, “under English law prior to the implementation of the Trade Secrets Directive, trade secrets constituted a particular category of confidential information. The principal distinguishing characteristic of trade secrets, as opposed to other forms of confidential information, was that a former employee could be restrained from using or disclosing their former employer’s trade secrets after the termination of the employment”. [24]

“The Trade Secrets Directive harmonises the protection against the unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure of trade secrets in the European Union. It is not an exhaustive harmonisation: Article 1(1) provides that Member States may provide for more far-reaching protection than that required by the Directive provided that compliance with a number of provisions of the Directive is ensured. Thus the Directive provides both a floor and a ceiling.”[25]

Moreover, it was noted that whilst TSR might implement the Trade Secrets Directive, it does not transpose Articles 3, 4 or 5 of the Directive.

Turning to the “curious provision” of Regulation 3 Wider Protection, Arnold LJ surmised “… it appears to be primarily intended to ensure that, if and in so far as English law prior to the implementation of the Trade Secrets Directive was more favourable to the trade secret holder…then that greater level of protection shall continue to be available…”.[29]

Conversely it was noted that Regulation 3 does not appear to address the position if the Directive confers greater protection than English law did previously. In such a situation the solution advocated by Arnold LJ would be to interpret and apply TSR consistently with the Directive and again offer the trade secret holder the higher protection.

Despite its somewhat inauspicious start at IPEC it seems clear that our Judges are starting to get to grips with TSR.

Cybersecurity recognised as an urgent global legal challenge

Delighted to see cybersecurity identified as one of the urgent global legal challenges to be addressed under the Hillary Rodham Clinton Scholarship programme just launched by Sky and Swansea University (see below).

No understanding of innovation is complete without an understanding of intellectual property law and as Alec Ross, Senior Advisor for Innovation to Hillary Clinton when Secretary of State, states in his work The Industries of the Future (2016), “We all want the liberty that comes with a vibrant online life, but liberty without security is fragile, and security without liberty is oppressive. The years ahead will force us to balance these two as we have not had to before.”

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Sky and Swansea University today announced the first ever global Hillary Rodham Clinton Scholarship programme.

The scholarships will support the next generation of leaders committed to addressing urgent global challenges, including the rights and protection of children online, the climate crisis and cybersecurity.  

Each of the scholars will be selected over the summer and granted a fully-funded, postgraduate, one-year scholarship at Swansea University, starting in the autumn.

Launching the Hillary Rodham Clinton Global Challenges Scholarship, Secretary Clinton said: “I’m delighted that this partnership between Sky and the School of Law at Swansea will be able to achieve something truly unique, with an urgency that the challenges we face today demand. The programme is a modern, flexible approach which combines the rigour of academic excellence with practical, real world impact. These scholars will embody our shared values of working together across disciplines and geographic boundaries to improve conditions and opportunities for all, and especially for women, children, the marginalised and the disenfranchised.”

Sky Chief Executive, Jeremy Darroch said: “We are honoured to be the inaugural partner for the Hillary Rodham Clinton Global Challenges Scholarship and are immensely proud to support a programme so committed to building a better tomorrow.

“As a society we face a number of global challenges and as a responsible business we recognise the importance of using our reach and voice to make a difference in addressing these, making an impact in the wider world, and helping others do the same. I look forward to welcoming the scholars to the Sky family and exploring the good we can do together.”

Dean of the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law at Swansea University, Professor Elwen Evans QC, said: “This is a wonderfully exciting initiative and we are delighted to be working with Sky. These scholarships will support the delivery of a transformational programme and we hope that our students will be outward-looking in addressing the big issues. If we are to tackle the major challenges, such as climate, security, protecting children online, and inequality, we require innovative thinking and leadership, and a sustained commitment to transnational cooperation and collaboration. 

“This programme capitalises on the considerable research expertise within the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law in order to provide students with an incredible opportunity to undertake study into areas of global challenge, and to be equipped with the skills to undertake legal research and to effectively advocate for transformational change to law, policy and practice.”

Apply for a Hillary Rodham Clinton Global Challenges Scholarship.

Examples of recent IP Wales impact on the Welsh Innovation Economy

Reading the IP Wales SME Guide to IP Cybersecurity, underpinned by Beale A., Ratcliffe S., Tettenborn A., The Protection of Data in our Digital Age [2017] Journal of Business Law, Issue 6, 2017 p.461-472, has resulted in each of the following businesses seeking to adopt new methodologies and processes to protect their online commercial activities:-

Benchmark Skincare Limited (Managing Director: Peter Friswell) “By seeking to be certified for Cyber Essentials will enable our business to become “GDPR compliant, protect itself from phising emails, protect itself from external cyberattacks, creating an effective and robust backup data storage process.”

Boyns Information Systems (Director: Robert Boyns) “Reading the IP Wales SME Guide to IP Cybersecurity helped increase our awareness on the importance of cybersecurity in the field intellectual property. As a result, we have adopted new methodologies and processes to allow Boyns Information Systems to grow our cybersecurity infrastructure, whilst protecting us from online harm. Being awarded the IP Wales grant assisted our bid to achieve the Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation, preparing us more fully to mitigate any cyberattack.”

Cadmhas Limited (Director of Services: Elfed Williams) “We are a registered charity and company limited by guarantee and as the Director of Services of CADMHAS I have a duty of care and responsibility to both my Directors, Staff and Service Users that we mitigate the threat of a Cyber Attack. I have spoken to our suppliers Boyns Information Systems Ltd., and they have assured me that by following the 5 pillars of the Cyber Essentials Scheme this will help towards my goal of having a system secured to government guidelines. By having the certification and adhering to it, I will be able to focus on the development of our day to day operations and plan towards the future with a good IT foundation to move forward.”

Castell Howell Foods Limited (Head of IT: Paul Rankin) “Having read the IP Wales SME Guide to Cybersecurity, we decided to increase our protection to Cyber Essentials Plus to reduce the risk of being infiltrated or having data breaches in line with GDPR. With an ever-increasing rise in cybercrime it makes sense to do as much as we can to prevent attacks on our company. I can honestly say that I feel much more confident in our security now and would highly recommend others to carry out this process. Thanks again for considering us for the funding, much appreciated.”

CCTV Wales Limited (Compliance Supervisor: Steve Gallagher) “…to ensure that all customer data and company information is properly protected allowing the company to enhance their service and support Cybersecurity in the area.”

David W.Harris & Co. Solicitors (Practice Manager: Neil Startup) “We are now in the process of undertaking risk analysis and management relating to cyber security. We have updated our internal governance to include more detail on IT security, such as: maintenance of an asset register to include the addition or removal of any assets, Updated IT security and systems policies, Implementation of remote access control, Implementation of a protocol to manage remote devices with access to exchange accounts, Implementation of server password policies, Implementation of automatic screen lock down through user inactivity, Introduction of periodic penetration testing, Password Protection introduced for all electronic documents.”

Daydream Education (Operations Director: Wesley Paetel) “Reviewing and updating all internal cybersecurity awareness and reporting processes, reviewing all third-party anti-virus and malware applications, ensuring system security is reviewed regularly, and reviewing our disaster recovery processes as well as educating staff members about the dangers of cybersecurity and how to become more aware of threats.”

Guardian Property Services Limited (Business Development: Lauren Thomas) “It’s apparent that cybersecurity should be a priority of any business, irrespective of size. Having the right level of knowledge and preparation is vital to minimise and control damage, as well as an understanding of the consequences of a breach and how to recover.”

Health & Her Limited (Marketing Director: Kate Bache) “Collecting, protecting and processing sensitive customer data to improve our understanding in the therapeutic areas of female health, including menopause and menstrual wellbeing.”

Masons Moving Group Limited (Financial Controller: Robert Power) “Protecting the business from online harm is of paramount importance and the Guide has enabled us to implement new security and knowledge to ensure cyber threats are eliminated. These new systems will be monitored frequently and updated when necessary.”

Masons Self Storage Limited (Marketing Manager: James Mason) “The Guide has been extremely helpful in helping our business truly understand the impact cyberattacks can have on a small business. We have ensured brand new office procedures have been put in place with efficient regimes of how we hold and process all types of data.”

PLF Wealth Management Limited (Director: Jeremy Freeman) “Your Guide has made me appreciate the myriad of potential cybersecurity attacks that my small firm has to be aware of, and the steps we as a company need to take to protect our data and network from becoming a victim of these attacks. As a small business our in the financial services arena, we control large amounts of personal data and sensitive data which could make us a viable target to such attacks.”

The Business Centre (Cardiff) Limited (Centre Manager: Emma Mason) “Reading the Guide has given me great knowledge on how to protect our business from online harm. Using this knowledge has enabled us to put new office processes and procedures in place to ensure that we are protected. We have looked closely at how we hold and process our data.”

IP Wales Online Initiative (2017-2020)

IP crime is traditionally viewed as counterfeiting (false branding) and piracy (illegal copying) but cybercriminals (& some state players) are increasingly coming to recognise the value of confidential data held by businesses, be it sensitive information about the business operation (trade secrets) or customer information such as passwords and credit card details (made even more topical with the arrival of the EU General Data Protection Regulation 2016).

These attacks on confidential data are happening globally with increasing rapidity and ever more complexity. Zero-day vulnerabilities (where hackers have discovered and exploit a software security breach before a fix is available) are increasing exponentially.

In response our award-winning business support initiative IP Wales has launched a new Online Initiative 2017-2020, the aim of which is to help small/medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to protect their IP from online threats.

SMEs are particularly vulnerable to cyberattack, with our research (commissioned by the Welsh Government) showing that many take little or no precautions against cyber threats, in the mistaken belief that they are too small to attract the cybercriminal’s attention, or that they don’t possess any data worth stealing. Examples of cyberattacks on SMEs have included:-

• IP ‘Theft’ (i.e. trade secrets), the loss of which seriously undermines a company’s attractiveness to both investors and prospective buyers of the business.

• Ransoming of Data, where the business is coerced into paying off hackers in order to retrieve or access stolen or encrypted data.

.• ‘Theft’ of Customer Data (including payment details) which exposes the business to lawsuits, regulatory fines for improper handling of personal data, and reputational damage.

Our website www.ipcybersecurity.co.uk is dedicated to helping SME Boards of Directors to better understand and better protect their business from this increasing threat of IP cybercrime. It also acts as a repository for our research into emerging trends in Cyber-Risk oversight, offering free Briefing Guides for the IP Service Community (IP active Solicitors and Patent Attorneys) on:-

Protecting Trade Secrets Using Employment Law

Cyber Defence

SMEs Outsourcing Cybersecurity Incident Response & Data Recovery Activities

Who is threatening SME Clients & Why?

SMEs Reporting IP Cybercrime

Moral prejudice compensation for sufferers of IP infringement.

The CJEU has given a decision today under Decision Liffers C- 99/15 that when judicial authorities set damages for IP infringement they will “take into account all appropriate aspects, such as negative economic consequences”. The decision related to the correct interpretation of Article 13(1) of the Enforcement Directive.

The decision, which related to copyright infringement,  held that compensation for the moral prejudice suffered by a victim of IP infringement could be sought. The decision rested on the conclusion that not only the wording of EU Law should be considered but also its context. Therefore if there is financial damage to IP right holders and there is also moral damage, for example to the reputation of an author, then this should be accounted for as well.

Thanks again to Sue Radcliffe for this one.