The presiding judge at the UK’s Intellectual Property Enterprise Court has said the court still serves a purpose despite the growing availability of flexible trials elsewhere.

His Honour Judge Richard Hacon, speaking at a legal event on the UK’s patent framework, said companies would continue to use the court despite the extension of a pilot scheme offering short and flexible trials.

The Shorter and Flexible Trial Procedures scheme was introduced in 2015 for a period of two years but was extended until 2018 last year.

Trials are heard by a single judge, proceed to trial within 10 months and judgments are handed down within six months. Cases last no more than four days.

At the IPEC, formerly called the Patents County Court, cases are also heard by a single judge and trials tend not to last longer than three days.

Unsuccessful parties’ liability for the successful parties’ costs is limited to £50,000.

‘You may well ask, and people have, “does the IPEC continue to serve a purpose?”,' Hacon said.

However, he added that because there is no cap on the costs in the shorter and flexible trials scheme, many companies, particularly smaller enterprises, will prefer to use the IPEC. He said the court continued to be busy and that the time taken to get to trial was reducing.

Hacon also said that UK courts could also learn from the soon to-be-implemented Unified Patent Court system, which will hear trials that could last no more than one day.

‘I’m not suggesting we abandon the current system in our courts, but we could be more efficient,’ Hacon said, referencing the need to spend hours on cross-examination.

He added that other countries including Australia, China and Japan had all expressed an interest in adopting courts similar to the IPEC.

Hacon was speaking at a Westminster Legal Policy Forum event on the future of the UK’s patent landscape.