Patent threats - but this time it's the witnesses

The IPKat has found this little IP case on the LexisNexis All England Direct subscription service. It has not (yet) appeared on Lawtel, Westlaw or BAILII. It's Cinpres Gas Injection Ltd v Melea Ltd, a Patents Court decision of Mr Justice Pumfrey yesterday.

In short, Cinpres was involved in patent litigation in which it proposed to submit the evidence of a witness who formerly worked with Melea but subsequently came over to Cinpres. After the witness claimed he had received a telephoned threat from a former colleague who remained on Melea's side, Cinpres applied ex parte for an injunction to restrain Melea from interfering with its witnesses. No skeleton argument or draft order had been prepared for the hearing of that application and, after the solicitor for the threatened witness told the court what his client had said to him following the telephone call, the injunction was granted against Melea interfering in any way at all. Melea applied for the injunction to be set aside, arguing, that the wording of the injunction was too broad and vague.

Witnesses in patent litigation have more to contend
with than answering tricky questions

Pumfrey J allowed the application and set aside the injunction. He held as follows:
* The more serious the nature of the injunction applied for, the more desirable it was that notice be given to the party who was at the receiving end of it, unless the application was genuinely urgent, when giving notice would frustrate the purpose of the relief sought, or where it was not practicable to do so in the time available.

* In this case a grave allegation was made, that there had been a serious interference with a witness. This made it more desirable that notice been given . However, Cinpres offered no explanation was provided by the claimant as to why notice had not been given:that amounted to a grave procedural fault.

* In all the circumstances, having regard to the wording of the injunction, the existing injunction would be discharged and a differently-worded order substituted.
The IPKat does wish that these tantalising little notes would have all the really juicy (and necessary) details, such as the nature of the threat(s) and the wording of the injunction both before and after the decision. Even so, this case is a handy reminder that the normal rules of fair play apply even in the sinister demi-monde of patent infringement.

IP Round-UP

The 10th Annual Intellectual Property Law Conference, organised by CLT, will be held on Tuesday 24 January 2006 at the Cafe Royal, near Piccadilly Circus in London's West End. This year's event is supported by the IPKat, who furnished his consultancy services in helping to design the content of the papers.

This year's action-packed programme includes topics such as the current state of UK implementation of EU IP norms, litigating IP rights in Europe, the new rules on detaining goods at the border, copyright infringement in the iPod era, the latest amendments to employee inventor rules, database right post-BHB v William Hill and basic shifts in trade mark and design infringement.

Speakers include the Ian Karet (Linklaters), Paul Joesph Freshfields), Catriona Smith (Allen & Overy), Dominic Dryden (Slaughter and May) and Lord Chancellor's Appointed Person Professor Ruth Annand (Taylor Wessing, right).

Programme and booking details here

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