Post-breach of confidence disclosure available to support 'public interest' defence

Harrods Ltd v Times Newspapers Ltd and others, a Chancery Division decision of Mr Justice Warren today, has so far been picked up only by the Butterworths All England Direct subscription service (well done!).

The defendants published an article in The Sunday Times newspaper in which an unnamed ex-director of Harrods made certain revelations about his employment experience in that famous emporium. Harrods complained that the article disclosed confidential information relating to its internal operations and sued for breach of confidence on the basis that the newspaper knew, or should have known, that the information in the article was confidential. The newspaper argued that Harrods was projecting a false public image as a benevolent employer when its culture was autocratic and there was a high turnover of staff (particularly senior employees). The newspaper also sought disclosure of details concerning the departure from Harrods of certain senior members of staff after the date of publication of the article.

In these proceedings Warren J was asked to rule on whether a defendant relying on a public interest defence was limited to what he knew at the date of publication or whether he could rely on matters which had come to light since that date.

Warren J ordered the disclosure that the newspaper sought, holding as follows:
*If the paper could rely on matters that came to light after publication of its original article, the court had jurisdiction to order disclosure under the Civil Procedure Rules;

* Although there had to be something to justify the allegations made by the defendant, there was nothing to suggest that he could only base a public interest defence on what was known at the date of publication;

* As to proportionality, it would be wrong to order disclosure that was disproportionate to the information reasonably expected to be discovered.
The IPKat thinks this must be correct - public interest, as a defence, cannot be bound by mere considerations of time. If it were otherwise, it would be in Harrods' interest to ensure that articles allegedly in breach of confidence were published as soon as possible, thus limiting the scope of its pre-trial disclosure.

History of Harrods here
£8.50p for a cup of Harrods tea here

Veeza carries licensing terms

Royal Philips Electronics, on its Veeza webpage, carries a link to the details of its Veeza licensing scheme for its CD-R disk patents. The company says:
"With this innovative system ... Philips helps the industry combat unfair competition from trade in unlicensed CD-R discs.

Veeza makes it simple for everyone involved in the trade of CD-R discs to recognize unlicensed goods. With traditional patent licensing methods, traders and retail companies tend to have difficulty in verifying that the goods they have purchased are licensed and royalties have been paid. Veeza will make it easier to sell licensed CD-R discs and more difficult to sell unlicensed discs. Discs distributed under a Veeza-license can easily be traced and recognized by three clear marks: a logo that is embedded in the disc, a serial number on each package carton and an authenticity document, called Licensed Status Confirmation Document (LSCD). These three marks provide simple proof that a shipment with CD-R discs is licensed under Philips’ patents.

Manufacturers participating in Veeza help promote the transparent and fair trade in CD-R discs by using the Veeza logo and Veeza LSCD with their products. Veeza-compliant companies will therefore benefit from a 44% reduction in the royalty, which goes down from 0.045 to 0.025 USD per CD-R disc.

'The trade in unlicensed CD-R discs is undermining the possibility of CD-R disc manufactures to compete on quality, manufacturing expertise, and logistics excellence’, said Ruud Peters, CEO of Philips Intellectual Property & Standards. ‘Veeza aims to promote fair competition by creating a level playing field in the CD-R market, which will help build a more favorable business environment for the CD-R industry’.

Philips co-invented the CD-Recordable disc system in the early 1990s and has a portfolio of patents essential for manufacturing and selling CD-R discs. Philips successfully promoted the worldwide adoption of CD-R by making these patents available on reasonable and non-discriminatory conditions. Likewise, Philips has successfully promoted the DVD and DVD+RW standards. Currently, Philips is a major driver of innovation in Blu-ray technology and many other technologies.

To safeguard an appropriate return on investment made in R&D, Philips places great value in protecting its innovations through intellectual property rights (IPRs). The company currently holds about 115,000 patent rights, 26,000 trade mark registrations, 15,000 design registrations, some 1,600 domain name registrations".
The IPKat notices how derisory the per-disk royalties are (there's not much you can buy for US$0.045 to 0.025). However, with consumers stampeding away from CD and into the arms of iPod, he wonders if it isn't a case of 'too little, too late' ... Merpel commends Philips on their openness and says, if IP owners make it really easy to take licences and remain tough with fakes, even infringers may come to see that lawful manufacture is in their best interests.

Veeza FAQs here

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