By Daniel Hunter

A modernised Mediation Service designed to make it cheaper and quicker for small businesses to resolve their intellectual property disputes was announced today (Thursday) by Intellectual Property (IP) Minister, Lord Younger.

The new Mediation Service will provide alternative solutions to what otherwise can often lead to costly and lengthy court cases. The Mediation Service will be available to businesses involved in an IP dispute that are seeking to resolve matters without resorting to costly litigation through the Courts.

It will offer access to a greater variety of mediation options including short telephone sessions, a wider range of specialist accredited mediators and reduced mediation fees.

Minister for Intellectual Property, Lord Younger said: “For intellectual property disputes, going through the courts should be the last resort, not the first port of call.

“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 IP 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.

“These changes provide more options for businesses to protect their innovation, and increase their access to justice.”

The IPO Mediation Service was established in 2006 to help deliver IP dispute resolution as quickly, effectively and efficiently as possible but usage has been low. Professor Hargreaves’ Review of Intellectual Property and Growth in 2011 identified the cost of IP enforcement and dispute resolution as a major barrier for small businesses. Improvements to the existing Mediation Service were identified through a call for evidence which ran between June and July 2012.

Clive Davenport, Policy Chairman for Trade and Industry of the Federation of Small Businesses said: “The Federation of Small Businesses welcomes the launch of the IPO Mediation Service which has been modernised to better meet the needs of small businesses.

“That it is linked to broader initiatives like the Business Dispute Resolution Commitment and the soon to be renamed and reformed Patents County Court is important. This will help to ensure that the service, and mediation generally, is a key alternative to help business reach more creative and beneficial solutions to their disputes.”

Dids Macdonald, Chief Executive Officer of Anti Copying in Design and Vice Chair of the Alliance for IP said: “In ACID's experience of many grass roots mediations, outcomes can be achieved which often lead to positive business relationships being forged. In any dispute it's good to talk and I welcome the IPO's initiative to provide a telephone mediation service which will be a benefit to micro and SME's. In litigation a Court is limited to the remedies it can award. However, with a skilled mediator the parties have complete freedom and control over the outcome and the settlement terms.”

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