Civil Proceedings

Ministry of Justice, Standard YouTube Licence

Jane Lambert

29 Jan 2017

The United Kingdom is divided into three separate jurisdictions:
  • England and Wakes;
  • Scotland; and
  • Northern Ireland.
Each has its own separate legal system with its own substantive and procedural laws.  Each of those legal systems has its own courts and tribunals though there are also some UK tribunals. There is a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom that hears appeals from the highest courts of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Civil Courts of England and Wales

Civil justice in England and Wales is administered by the Senior Courts and the County Court.  The Senior Courts consist of the Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice and the Crown Court,  The High Court has first instance jurisdiction in civil matters and the Crown Court in criminal ones. The County Court has exclusively civil jurisdiction.  Most civil proceedings including intellectual property and technology cases can be brought either in the High Court or the County Court.  


The Senior Courts are established by the Senior Courts Act 1981 and the County Court by the County Courts Act 1984 as amended by s.17 and Sched. 9 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. Civil procedure in both courts is governed by a set of rules and practice directions known as the Civil Procedure Rules ("CPR").

The High Court

The High Court consists of three Divisions known respectively as the Queen's Bench Division, the Chancery Division and the Family Division.  Work is allocated to those Divisions by s.61 (1) and Sched. 1 of the Supreme Court Act 1981.  Para 1 (1) (h) of Sched 1 assigns patents, trade marks, registered designs,   copyright and design right cases to the Chancery Division. 

The Patents Court

S.6 (1) (a) of the Act establishes a Patents Court within the Chancery Division.  S.63 (1) requires the Patents Court "to take such proceedings relating to patents as are within the jurisdiction conferred on it by the Patents Act 1977, and such other proceedings relating to patents or other matters as may be prescribed" 

Intellectual Property Enterprise Court ("IPEC")

S.287 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 gave the Lord Chancellor power to designate any county court as a patents county court and to confer special jurisdiction on it to hear patents and designs cases. Only one county court was ever designated a patents county court at any one time.  Wood Green was the first such court. Later its patents and design jurisdiction was transferred to the Central London County Court. In its early years, the Patents County Court was not used much but its business gradually picked up as its jurisdiction increased to cover all IP matters, In 2010 its procedures were streamlined with strict time limits and costs caps, It was given jurisdiction over small IP claims in 2012. In 2013 its jurisdiction (including the small claims track) was transferred to the Chancery Division and it was renamed IPEC ("the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court"),

The Queen's Bench Division

The Queen's Bench Division hears contract and negligence cases including computer supply disputes, It also has a number of specialist courts, one of which is the Technology and Construction Court ("the TCC").  The TCC hears building, engineering and technology disputes including those involving computer and telecommunications equipment and software.  

The County Court

The County Court is a single court of general civil jurisdiction which sits in 92 heating centres in England and Wales.  It replaces a number of local courts with local jurisdiction.  It tends to hear smaller and less complex claims than those brought in the High Court.

Intellectual Property Work

Rule 2 of Part 63 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR 63.2) allocates parents, registered and registered Community design, plant varieties and semiconductor topography work to the Patents Court and IPEC. Trade marks and all other intellectual property work is allocated by rule 13 to the Chancery Division, IPEC and County Court hearing centres where there is also Chancery District Registry. Para 16.1 of the Part 63 Practice Direction helpfully lists those other intellectual property rights as copyright, rights in performances, rights conferred under Part VII of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, design right, Community design right, association rights, moral rights, database rights, unauthorised decryption rights, hallmarks, claims in respect of technical trade secrets, passing off, protected designations of origin, protected geographical indications and traditional speciality guarantees, registered trade marks and EU trade marks. Para 16.2 lists the Chancery district registries at Birmingham, Bristol, Caernarfon, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Mold, Newcastle upon Tyne and Preston though Caernarfon, Mold and Preston do not have trade marks jurisdiction.

Hearing Centres

The Chancery Division, Patents Court, IPEC and the TCC are based in the Rolls Building, the purpose-built court building shown in the video above. The Chancery Division also sits in Caernarfon, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Mold, Newcastle upon Tyne and Preston. The TCC sits in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham.


Appeals lie from the High Court to the Court of Appeal and from the County Court to the High Court (see Section III of Practice Direction 52A Appeals). Appeals from the Court of Appeal lie to the Supreme Court. In most instances, it is necessary to obtain permission either from the judge whose decision is under appeal or the appeal court.

Alternatives to Litigation

The courts encourage parties to resolve their disputes without recourse to litigation (see para 8 of the Practice Direction - Pre-Action Conduct and Correspondence). Parties are required to consider whether negotiation or some form of ADR (alternative dispute resolution) might enable them to settle their dispute without commencing proceedings and to consider the possibility of reaching a settlement after proceedings have been started.  Such alternatives include arbitration, mediation and early neutral evaluation.

The World Intellectual Property Organization ("WIPO") offers specialist arbitration and expedited arbitration for IP and technology disputes.  Both the WIPO and the Intellectual Property Office ("IPO") offer specialist mediation for such disputes.  The IPO offers non-binding opinions by examiners on patent designs and the WIPO a range of domain name dispute resolution services.

Further Information

Should anyone require further information, he or she should call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

Further Reading