New Commercial Court to handle IP matters unveiled

Ireland

A new commercial division of the High Court of Ireland was inaugurated last month. The new Commercial Court will have jurisdiction for all commercial cases having a value of over €1m as well as all trademark, passing off, design and patent cases.

The Commercial Court incorporates a number of features, which are new to civil litigation in Ireland. The rules for the new court provide for electronic filing, exchange of documents and presentation of evidence. Video conferencing and real time stenography are also possible. The procedure of the new court includes case management conferences and pre-trial hearings.

In an interview about the new Commercial Court, the President of the High Court, Justice Joseph Finnegan, has expressed the view that the new measures will result in shorter trial hearings. This is because the pre-trial directions of the presiding judge, who will be a senior member of the judiciary, will narrow the issues and focus the attention of the parties to the core contentious matters. The main purpose of the pre-trial procedures is to clarify the issues in advance, to agree evidence and to oblige experts to confer with each other. In particular, the Commercial Court judges have the power to require parties to set out their cases in writing. Witness statements must be exchanged in advance and can be used as evidence once verified on affidavit.

Given that the Commercial Court has only just opened its doors to business, it is not possible to accurately predict the overall effect on the enforcement of trademarks in Ireland. However, measures such as these, which are aimed at providing more efficient legal machinery to enforce trademark rights, will undoubtedly be welcomed by brand owners. In a recent statement, the Irish Minister of Justice, Michael McDowell SC, expressed confidence that the new provisions would assist in bringing commercial litigation, including enforcement of intellectual property rights, "into line with the needs of the 21st century".

Kieran Heneghan, FR Kelly & Co, Dublin

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