Case management conferences are very important in Patents County Court litigation.
They present the only opportunity to stay an action or transfer it to another court. They are the occasion when the court decides the issues are to be tried, what evidence it will allow and the date for trial. There can be no disclosure, exchange of witness statements, expert reports, cross examination or even skeleton arguments without an order of the court. Unless the court makes an order at the case management conference it will be reluctant to make one later.
Claimants have a duty to apply for case management directions within 14 days of service of the defence. If they fail to do so within that time another party can apply for directions or the court can order a case management conference on its own initiative. At the hearing, which can take place by telephone or video link, the court will identify the issues in dispute from the statements of case, consider the evidence that it needs to hear to resolve them, fix a date for trial and set a timetable for disclosure, exchange of witness statements, preparation of trial bundles, lodging of skeletons and handing down of judgment.
When applying for case management directions the claimant should attach draft directions to its application notice. An example of the sort of order the court will make is set out below. The dispute in that case is a design right case. The main defence is that the design is not original either because it was copied from one or more antecedent designs or the design was commonplace at the time of the design’s creation. The defendant also relies on the must fit or interface exception provided by s.213 (3) (b) (i) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. He denies copying and argues that his article does not even look like the claimant's but even if it did it was the product of his own skill and labour.
The first and last of those issues are issues of fact which will be resolved on documentary and oral evidence. The other issues are matters of impression where the judge will make up his mind on the statements of case and arguments of the parties.
Although not expressly required by the CPR Part 63 or its practice direction or indeed the Patents County Court Guide it is good practice for the parties to try to agree the issues and as many directions as possible in advance.
For further information on Patents County Court litigation, see my articles “The New Patents County Court Rules” of 31 Oct 2010 at http://nipclaw.blogspot.co.uk and “Patents County Court FAQ” of 20 May 2012 at http://nipclaw.wordpress.com . You can also call me on 0800 862 0055 or +44 161 850 0080 if calling from abroad or contact me through this site.
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