Consumer Focus has entered the debate on the proposed reform of the Patents County Court (PCC). The PCC, soon to be renamed the Intellectual Property County Court, handles most small and medium-sized non-criminal copyright infringement claims. In their response , they argue that a raft of pro-consumer reforms is necessary.
Consumer Focus hit out at the use of the existing system to launch inaccessible, punishing and misleadingly-led lawsuits against legally naïve Internet subscribers accused of copyright infringement through p2p filesharing. Such cases are only ever won against individuals with no lawyer, against no-shows, or after admissions of guilt or liability.
Because defending a case in the PCC or the High Court is so prohibitively expensive, internet subscribers are pressured into settling for disproportionate sums irrespective of the strength of the allegations against them. This means that unsound claims can continue to go unchallenged. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been taken from internet subscribers in this way.
Consumer Focus has been conducting an in-depth investigation into past and present UK cases involving copyright infringement through p2p filesharing, the results of which allege that:
The Patents County Court still requires copyright infringement claims to be disputed through the very costly 'multi-track' process, which for example resulted in one accused (Isabella Barwinska) having to pay £10,000 to cover the other side's legal costs awarded against her in for sharing a pinball gam – on top of an award of thousands of pounds in damages to repair the harm done to the claimants. This comes to over half the average annual income for a person in the UK.