For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Sunday, 14 December 2003

TRUSTY THE TRAFFIC LIGHT NOT INFRINGED BY ‘DREAM STREET’ CHARACTERS

In Miles v ITV Network Ltd (Chancery Division, 8 December) Mr Justice Laddie was asked to review the master’s summary decision to dismiss a claim on the ground that he had improperly conducted a mini-trial. Miles sued television company ITV Network for breach of confidential information and infringement of copyright in relation to a cartoon television programme. Miles alleged he supplied ITV Network in 1998 with promotional material that was designed to interest the company in taking on his cartoon, 'Trusty and friends'. The main character, Trusty, was a set of traffic lights; his friends were pieces of traffic equipment like bollards and traffic cones. He alleged that this material, which included a short cartoon showing those characters, had been taken and used to produce another programme, 'Dream Street', in which the characters were items of traffic equipment but the main character was a yellow recovery truck. ‘Dream Street’ became a commercial success. In his pleadings, Miles claimed that the similarities between some of the characters in ‘Dream Street’ and the concept of using traffic equipment was sufficiently close to give rise to an inference of copying. The second defendant, who created ‘Dream Street, produced evidence that the designs for the programme had been in existence since December 1997 and argued that the allegations of copying were not only untrue but also impossible. The defendants applied for summary judgment before the master, who dismissed Miles’ case on the ground that the inference of copying was not strong. Miles appealed to Laddie J on the ground that the master had engaged in a mini-trial contrary to recommended guidance in such cases.

Laddie J dismissed the appeal, holding that Miles’ case could not be justified. The fact that the master should not indulge in mini-trials did not mean he was not supposed to understand the facts in issue. On the evidence the only similarity between the two programmes was the use of traffic equipment. Accordingly, the inference of copying was hopelessly weak. In those circumstances the master had not engaged in a mini-trial but had considered whether Miles had raised a sufficiently triable case. The master had arrived at the right conclusion and there was no arguable claim.

The IPKat thinks the review in this case was a waste of time. Even though the master is not supposed to conduct a mini-trial in an application for summary judgment, it would be absurd if a hopelessly weak claim such as Miles’ was allowed to go to full trial simply because the master was not allowed to consider evidence that was so strong that it would appear pretty well determinative of the issue by itself. If Miles’ application were successful he would still almost certainly have lost at trial, it would mean that it would have taken three goes before Miles’ case was dismissed.

Another Dream Street here; Dream Street Prose here;Down on Dream Street here
More on summary judgments in general, in the United States and in Canada
Special properties of traffic lights here, here and here

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