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Access to Justice – online and simple better than none at all

At a recent and wide ranging speech in London, Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger was critical of a range of civil justice and litigation issues including ‘wrong turns’ taken in civil legal aid (or more importantly, lack of civil legal aid) and also the need for “quick and dirty” online dispute resolution (ODR) as at least a workable alternative to either “no justice or absurdly over-priced justice”.

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One of the realities of business life is that disputes will happen, be they with suppliers, contractors, customers or regulators. Whilst litigation and ‘going to court’ may well be your only realistic course of action to resolve business disputes, it can be a costly and time consuming process.  To minimise the need for such legal action in the first place, here are our top 5 business best practice tips suitable for businesses of all sizes.

31 August to 4 September 2015 is UK-China Copyright Week, when UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) representatives together with official from the UK's leading creative firms travel to China (Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai) to work with the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC).

The UK's delegation is being lead by Dr Ros Lynch, who is the UK IPO's Director of Copyright and Enforcement.

The aim of the seven-day high profile international event is to allow dialogue between business, policymakers and government from both countries.

Those found guilty of commercial-scale online copyright infringement may soon face much longer jail terms.

Currently, the offence is only punishable by a maximum jail term of two years but the government in the United Kingdom (UK) has launched a consultation on plans to increase the maximum sentence to ten years.

The proposals, which will increase the sanctions for those who infringe the rights of copyright holders for large-scale financial gain, are designed to ensure the sanctions online copyright offences better match those relating to the copyright infringement of physical goods.

The Law Society of England has reacted to further increases to court fees, which were very recently announced by the UK government, by claiming the move is a 'a further assault on access to justice for individuals and small businesses'.

While the government increased the maximum court fee, which is payable by a claimant to £10,000 in March 2015 – they are now proposing to double this amount to 'at least' £20,000.

Insolvency trade body m R3, has called on the UK Government to reform the collective redundancy process in insolvencies, requesting, in particular, clearer Government as well as change to 'protective award' compensation regime, which means that the taxpayer covers the costs of incomplete redundancy consultations.

Currently insolvent businesses must undertake a 45-day redundancy consultation, when alternatives are to be discussed. This requirement is not practical however, as companies, which are insolvent, often cannot afford to comply – despite wanting to do so.

Electronics payments (i.e. BACS) are now the method of choice for UK SMEs, according to the Close Brothers Business Barometer.

The quarterly study, which gathers opinions from owners/managers across the UK and Ireland, shows that sixty five per cent (65%) of SMEs have stopped using cheques in the last five years; instead making use of electronic payment methods.

Insolvency body, R3's Business Distress Index, shows that 24 per cent of businesses are 'distressed' – which is a record low.

According to a recent study undertaken by BDRC Continental on behalf of R3 - the UK's insolvency trade body – since January 2015, businesses across the nation have had to deal with approximately 16 per cent of their issued invoices being paid late, while 50 per cent of UK-based enterprises have had invoices paid late over the same period.

This trend is concerning signed a separate R3 study showed that late payment is a major contributory factor when it comes to the number of corporate insolvencies.

The highest UK court – namely the UK Supreme Court – has reaffirmed the territorial nature of 'goodwill' in relation to 'passing off ' actions.

A Passing off action is a common law method of intellectual property enforcement that can be used to prevent the unauthorised use of a mark, which is similar to another's registered or unregistered trademark.

Starbucks and PCCW, who provide internet TV services in Hong Kong under the name NOW TV, were unhappy when SKY announced a plan to launch their own internet TV service of the same name.

The number of corporate insolvencies in England and Wales have dropped to the lowest level since the last quarter of 2007 with 4,052 companies entering into formal insolvency in the first quarter of 2015, which is one per cent less than the last quarter of 2014 and 11 per cent lower than in the same quarter in 2014.

Creditors' voluntary liquidations are also at their lowest since the summer of 2008 with 2,481 companies entering into a creditor's voluntary liquidation 2015 Q1 - six per cent less than 2014 Q1.

The UK Government has unveiled new measures, which if approved, would force large companies across the country to disclose their payment practices twice every year.

Unfair payment practices, can cause creditors financial problems - which may lead to insolvency events.

UK personal insolvency rates have found to be highest in towns, which are located in northern England, according to new data recently published by credit reference agency Experian.

The research shows that 19 out of the 30 towns with the highest rates of insolvency are situated in either Northern England or Northern Wales.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which regulates solicitors in England and Wales, will cease to regulate insolvency practitioners (IPs) as of November 2015.

The decision is somewhat controversial given that the SRA appears to have ignored the opinions of most respondents to its consultation on the topic.

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Apple have been fine circa £350 million for three patents relating to iTunes - the media player, library and mobile device management application.

Subject to an appeal, which is likely, the iTunes creators will now have to pay $530 million (£342 million) to Smartflash after a Texas jury concluded that Apple copied Smartflash’s patent (at least in part) and should pay for damages for such wrongdoing.

The UK Government has this week, laid before Parliament, proposals, which if approved, will ensure insolvent businesses continue to be supplied services deemed to be "essential" – such as IT, telecoms and other utilities services, while insolvency practitioners seeks a solution.

The suppliers of such 'essential' services will not be able to simply cut off supply, nor charge premium rates to, any businesses undergoing rescue.

Following a Downing Street summit on UK payment practices, the Government has recently revealed new proposals, which are aimed at helping businesses across the country tackle the issue of unfair payment terms and other unfair payment practices

New research by the Close Brothers Business Barometer - a quarterly survey of small to medium sized business owners and senior management throughout the UK - has found that a third of respondents have never changed their finance provider.

The most cited reason for the failure to be more active with finances was lack or time to review their financial strategy. Second, was SME's being unsure of their options, and third most cited was fear that their current provider would penalise for moving elsewhere.

The civil litigation reforms, and the potential damage they could do to businesses once they are implemented, has put the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in direct conflict with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) has placed limits on contingency fee agreements during insolvency proceedings, which trade body for Insolvency Professionals R3 have long argued will be costly to creditors by prohibiting litigants from reclaiming certain legal costs from defendants.

A new EU insolvency regime, hoped to "rescue and recover" viable businesses facing cross-border financial difficulties, has been backed by justice ministers throughout the EU. The Regulation must be formally adopted by, both the European Council and Parliament, before coming into force.

The new Insolvency Regulation is expected to come into force in 2017, and would replace the current regime - which has been in place since May 2002 - with a modern and "rescue orientated" approach. The new rules also aim to reinforce the single market while recovering from the financial crisis.

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Latest News

  • Access to Justice – online and simple better than none at all At a recent and wide ranging speech in London, Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger was critical of a range of civil justice and litigation issues including ‘wrong turns’ taken in civil legal aid (or more importantly, lack of civil legal aid) and also the need for “quick and dirty” online dispute resolution (ODR) as at least a workable alternative to either “no justice or absurdly over-priced justice”. Regarding ODR, Lord Neuberger stated that: there are many cases where a bona fide dispute between parties about a sum of money which means quite a lot to both or one of them but in respect of which a trial conducted according to traditional principals would be wholly disproportionate. He emphasised that it is vital that there are dispute resolution solutions that are both affordable... Read More

  • One of the realities of business life is that disputes will happen, be they with suppliers, contractors, customers or regulators. Whilst litigation and ‘going to court’ may well be your only realistic course of action to resolve business disputes, it can be a costly and time consuming process.  To minimise the need for such legal action in the first place, here are our top 5 business best practice tips suitable for businesses of all sizes. Read More

  • 31 August to 4 September 2015 is UK-China Copyright Week, when UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) representatives together with official from the UK's leading creative firms travel to China (Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai) to work with the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC). The UK's delegation is being lead by Dr Ros Lynch, who is the UK IPO's Director of Copyright and Enforcement. The aim of the seven-day high profile international event is to allow dialogue between business, policymakers and government from both countries. Read More