Institute of Brand and Innovation Law


Lord Justice Birss highlights the importance of access to justice in IP cases

25 February 2022

Lord Justice Colin Birss, Deputy Head of Civil Justice, stresses the importance of access to justice for all in IP cases in a keynote speech given at UCL Laws in a joint event organised by the UCL Institute of Brand and Innovation and the Intellectual Property Awareness Network.


On 23 February 2022, the Institute of Brand and Innovation Law (IBIL) at UCL Laws co-hosted an event with the Intellectual Property Awareness Network (IPAN) chaired by Stephen Jones, IPAN Vice Chair and Visiting Lecturer at UCL Laws entitled - 'Can the IP System Serve Small Businesses Better?'

The keynote speech was given by the Deputy Head of Civil Justice, the Right Hon. Lord Justice Colin Birss. He identified the importance of small businesses to the economy and society, noting that '[a]ll the big businesses around today were small businesses once’ and underlining:

‘intellectual property is doing its job most acutely … in a David and Goliath situation. … The point of a property right is that others do not get to trespass on your property whoever you are. It is still a trespass whether the owner of the property is a prince or a pauper. So, what we are discussing here is something of real importance – it is access to justice.’

In a final call to arms to those attending the event in person and online, he stressed:

‘Every lawyer – no matter how senior or how junior - has expertise and skill which someone who can’t afford it, could use. And every lawyer has something to learn from helping such a person … [I]n in IP – we just cannot fairly expect small businesses – which have enough to do already - to look after themselves in this complex world of intellectual property. They need your help.’

The keynote speech was followed by presentations from Isabelle Doran, CEO of the Association of Photographers and Neil Sharpley representing the Federation of Small Businesses who each summarised the main IP issues which their members faced.

The event ended with a lively panel discussion – aiming to tackle some of these issues - involving both the speakers and additional panellists District Judge Charlotte Hart from the Small Claims Track of the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, barrister Michael Silverleaf QC, Lee Davies, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, entrepreneur Mandy Haberman, and Miles Rees, Head of Enforcement Outreach & Stakeholder Engagement at the UK Intellectual Property Office.

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