Monday 21 December 2015 12:01 am

Intellectual property claims made by small businesses are on the up, as the internet makes original content harder to police

The number of small businesses heading to court to protect their intellectual property (IP) is on the up, driven in part by an increase in digital copyright cases.

According to research released today by law firm Hugh James, the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) heard 308 claims in 2014, compared to 287 in 2013, and the first eight months of this year saw a further 183 claims.

An increasing proportion of these cases involve a dispute over copyright in digital content, particularly as original images and videos posted online are easily reproduced without the owner’s consent.

“It’s the blessing and the curse of the internet,” said Tracey Singlehurst-Ward, senior associate at Hugh James. “Producing and sharing images and content is now easier than ever, but it is very difficult to police the unauthorised use of this content once it’s online.

“With the growth of online platforms and social media a business’ brand is more integral to its success than ever before. However, when your IP is online, it also becomes harder to protect.”

Read more: Trunki maker Magmatic rides into Supreme Court

However, the IPEC’s value for money factor may have also boosted small firms confidence to make a claim.

Hugh James points out that, since the rules governing the IPEC were overhauled in 2010, costs recoverable from the losing side have been capped at £50,000 and the process has become more streamlined.

When City A.M. asked about the rise in small businesses going to court to protect their IP, Peter Brownlow, a partner specialising in IP at international law firm Bird & Bird, remarked: "We are seeing more and more businesses investing heavily in the protection of their trade marks as their online brand becomes vital to their success.

"Some of the most significant IP cases in the UK this year have tackled the thorny issue of how to apply IP law to the realities of today's online world."