"Appeals on fact115. It is also important to have in mind the role of a judgment given after trial. The primary function of a first instance judge is to find facts and identify the crucial legal points and to advance reasons for deciding them in a particular way. He should give his reasons in sufficient detail to show the parties and, if need be, the Court of Appeal the principles on which he has acted and the reasons that have led him to his decision. They need not be elaborate. There is no duty on a judge, in giving his reasons, to deal with every argument presented by counsel in support of his case [as many a fine counsel will happily testify]. His function is to reach conclusions and give reasons to support his view, not to spell out every matter as if summing up to a jury [another reason for not having jury trials in IP litigation?]. Nor need he deal at any length with matters that are not disputed. It is sufficient if what he says shows the basis on which he has acted. These are not controversial observations ...
114. Appellate courts have been repeatedly warned, by recent cases at the highest level, not to interfere with findings of fact by trial judges, unless compelled to do so. This applies not only to findings of primary fact, but also to the evaluation of those facts and to inferences to be drawn from them. [He lists five of the "best known", which include just one IP case: Biogen Inc v Medeva plc  UKHL 18, but mis-cited as  RPC 1]. These are all decisions either of the House of Lords or of the Supreme Court. The reasons for this approach are many. They include
(i) The expertise of a trial judge is in determining what facts are relevant to the legal issues to be decided, and what those facts are if they are disputed [This is, or should be, particularly the case with IP litigation, where appeals lie from a specialist judge to a Court of Appeal in which, if there is an equivalent specialist at all, he may be in the minority. Fage v Chobani is however the other way round: the trial judge was not an IP specialist, but two of the three Court of Appeal judges were].
(ii) The trial is not a dress rehearsal. It is the first and last night of the show [Well said, but this Kat isn't sure whether this comment is being made to the appeal court judges -- who are clearly tempted to reinterpret the script of the first performance -- or to litigants who fuel this temptation by raising arguments or seeking to admit evidence on appeal which the trial judge may have had little or no chance to contemplate].
(iii) Duplication of the trial judge's role on appeal is a disproportionate use of the limited resources of an appellate court, and will seldom lead to a different outcome in an individual case [but it does happen: Lumos Skincare v Sweet Squared, noted here by the IPKat, happened less than a year ago. Do take a look at the scathing comments of Sir Bernard Rix, dissenting. Another classic example is Designer Guild v Russell Williams, here, where the House of Lords had to repair the damage done by the Court of Appeal].
(iv) In making his decisions the trial judge will have regard to the whole of the sea of evidence presented to him, whereas an appellate court will only be island hopping [a cute metaphor, says Merpel, but is it a meaningful one?].
(v) The atmosphere of the courtroom cannot, in any event, be recreated by reference to documents (including transcripts of evidence) [indeed not, but this arguably cuts both ways].
(vi) Thus even if it were possible to duplicate the role of the trial judge, it cannot in practice be done.
"Just because I don't have to give all my
reasons doesn't mean that I have any ..."
116. ... The judge heard evidence over seven days and read a mass of material. I would therefore be most reluctant to disturb any of his findings of fact (whether primary or evaluative) unless compelled to do so. ...This Kat is pleased to see the respective roles of trial judge and appeal court discussed here, since the tendency of British appellate courts to tinker with findings of fact in IP litigation has been occasionally hard to resist. It would be better, though, if we had a clear expression of commitment to the principles articulated above, one that was issued as a practice statement from the court as a whole and not from a single judge, and one that was expressed in unequivocal terms without the distraction of metaphor.
117. ... some criticism was levelled at the judge for not having dealt more comprehensively with the ingredients that needed to be proved in order to maintain a successful claim in passing off. But the judge's judgment must be read against the background of what was actually in dispute between the parties. He dealt with the matters that were in dispute, and if he did not dot every i and cross every t in relation to what was not disputed, I do not consider that that is a valid ground of criticism".
Merpel adds: "likelihood of confusion" is an interesting topic, since some countries treat it as a question of fact while others see it as a question of law. If the former, it should be safer from review by an appellate court than if it is the latter.