Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Civil Law Reform Bill: latest news

Last December the United Kingdom's Ministry of Justice published a consultation paper which invited comments on the draft Civil Law Reform Bill. Among the other things covered by the Bill are changes to the law of damages and to pre- and post-judgment awards of interest. Proposals dating back to 2001 for reform the law of limitation of actions are now no longer going forward.
The consultation ends on 9 February 2010. You can view the draft Civil Law Reform Bill in full here and the consultation paper here. The House of Commons' page on the draft Bill, including a chart showing its progress through Parliament, is here.

Under Clause 8 of the Bill:

"... Subsection (2) amends paragraph 12(4) of Schedule A1 to the Patents Act 1977. This Act extends to the whole of the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man. It provides that the power to award damages for providing false information applies whether the action is brought by an individual or a body corporate. This is necessary because in Collins Stewart Ltd and another v Financial Times Ltd [2005] EWHC 262 (QB) the Court of Appeal decided that aggravated damages were in principle not available to a corporate claimant because a company has no feelings to injure and cannot suffer distress and many claimants under the Patents Act 1977 will be companies. Subsection (2) also replaces the expression “additional damages” with “aggravated damages and such amount by way of restitution”. The term “additional damages” appears in no statute other than Schedule A1 to the Patents Act 1977 and the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (see below) and has been the subject of criticism for uncertainty. The Bill therefore clarifies the nature of these damages in line with current case law.

... Subsection (3) makes equivalent amendments to those made by subsection (2) of the Bill to the Patents Act 1977 to section 97(2) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. This Act extends to the whole of the United Kingdom".
While most of the reforms relate to damages in general, the pre-Bill consultation sought views on whether exemplary damages in civil proceedings -- which are available in the UK for copyright infringement but not for infringement of patent (or other IP) rights -- should be extended through statute or continue to be a matter for the common law. Most respondents agreed at that time that there was no need for legislation on restitutionary damages and concurred with the Government's view that such issues were best left to the courts (only 17 of the 1o3 respondents addressed these issues, reflecting "a range of different views").

Click here for the consultation paper "The Law on Damages" and for the Government's response.

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