I have just received an email from the Patent Office containing details of a new mediation service that is to be launched on 3 April 2006. The service will apparently use the Registry's own staff and will therefore compete against people like Christopher Floyd QC, Mary Vitoria QC, Denise McFarland, Jonathan Turner and indeed me.
Although this represents state funded competition I welcome the development. It should raise public awareness of ADR and hence bring down the cost of litigation. I have been offering mediation for trade mark oppositions, computer supply disputes, licence disputes for years and I was one of the original members of Judge Ford's panel for the Patents County Court which was set up over 10 years ago.
My only criticism is that the service does seem a bit pricey. According to the attachments, the Office plans to charge a total cost of £1000 (+ VAT) for a full day mediation service in London and £750 (+ VAT) in Newport Office. For a half day mediation service the planned charges are £750 (+ VAT) and £500 (+ VAT) respectively. An accommodation only package at either venue is also available at a cost of £100 (plus VAT) per half day. I have always taken the view that there is no point in charging more than £500 + VAT for a mediation in opposition or invalidity proceedings when the most a hearing officer is likely to order is £2,000 but this may prove me wrong.
There will apparently be a dedicated website and booklet. The scheme will apparently be run by the our Search and Advisory Service.