0370 270 6000

Threatening reform?

25 July 2011

In its eleventh programme of reform, the Law Commission has announced it will consider reforming the laws relating to groundless threats.

Currently, groundless threats of trade mark, design or patent litigation can be causes of action themselves.

Sabre rattling should obviously be discouraged, particularly as just the threat of infringement can be enough to make customers defect to rightsholders to avoid the threat of litigation.

But businesses harmed by allegations of infringement are often reluctant to bring a claim for groundless threats, particularly as they could be ordered to provide security for the rightsholder’s costs. When claims for groundless threats are brought, the costs can be disproportionate to the damage done by a threat. And in practice, the threats provisions can cause costs to increase, because rather than encouraging a litigant to set out its case clearly (which could result in an early settlement), litigants may seek to artificially narrow their claim to avoid threats actions.

So whilst the rationale behind the threats provisions is admirable, in practice they do not function effectively. Part of the solution may be amendment to the Civil Procedure Rules to allow declarations that threats are unjustified to be brought cheaply and quickly.

Related opinions

80% hours for 100% pay? That’ll do nicely

As has been widely reported this week, some 3,000 UK workers are taking part in a six month trial to assess the viability of a four-day working week without any reduction in their normal pay.

View blog

Are whistleblowers entitled to keep their employer’s confidential documents?

In Nissan v Passi, the High Court recently considered the issue of an employee retaining confidential documents belonging to his former employer in the context of the employer’s application for an injunction seeking the return of such documents from the employee.

View blog

Important opportunity to comment on case law precedent

The UK government is considering extending this power to depart from retained EU case law to additional lower courts and tribunals, namely the Court of Appeal in England and Wales and the High Court of Justice in England and Wales and their equivalents.

View blog

Sky’s overly broad trade marks narrowed as found partially invalid for bad faith

Lord Justice Arnold has applied the guidance of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to the evidence before him, in the long standing trade mark dispute between Sky and Skykick.

View blog

Mailing list sign up

Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up