Past historic 7: Sir Arthur Kekewich -- was he really the worst judge?

Sir Arthur Kekewich, as
portrayed in Vanity Fair,
January 1895
The seventh item in the little bundle of photocopied articles on IP history which this Kat researched and wrote back in the 1980s, when he was still a full-time academic, deals with the case of Sir Arthur Kekewich, a Chancery Division judge for England and Wales who shouldered the burden of hearing a large number of intellectual property disputes over a period of more than two decades, during which he was execrated for the poor quality of his judicial rulings. As the old joke went:
"This is a decision of Mr Justice Kekewich,  my Lord, but there are other grounds of appeal".
Is it true that there is no smoke without fire, and that this unfortunate judge was foundering, out of his depth and beyond his capabilities, in a sea of intellectual property law which he was unable to navigate? Did he owe his position to the fact that he married Marianne, the daughter of a successful solicitor whose name resounds through the Courts of Justice even today, James William Freshfield? Or was he a reliable and efficient judge who was maligned, misunderstood and misrepresented, a sad victim of another's humour or hostility?

This week's article, "Sir Arthur Kekewich: a Study in Intellectual Property Litigation 1886-1907", was first published in [1983] 12 European Intellectual Property Review 335 to 340. You can read it in full here.
Past historic 7: Sir Arthur Kekewich -- was he really the worst judge? Past historic 7: Sir Arthur Kekewich -- was he really the worst judge? Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, December 08, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. It is interesting to see that the article begins with the 80s being a moment when IP is in crisis. It being in crisis seems to be a theme in IP.

    You should start a competition to find a time when those involved in the system did not not believe it was in trouble...

  2. I can't feel anything but affection and admiration for Sir Arthur, someone who "never reserved his judgments" and who shows "more concern for practicalities than the intricacies of the law". Ahead of his time. Is there a Kekie fan club ? Or is it just me and thee Jeremy ?

  3. Looks like a good candidate for the specialist IP judge that the CJEU will need.

    Why has the Kat suddenly started to reminisce about bad judges and judgements? Is it something to do with a recent Supreme Court decision led by Mr Neuberger?

    [the word verification word is "uncat". Is this painful for felines?]


All comments must be moderated by a member of the IPKat team before they appear on the blog. Comments will not be allowed if the contravene the IPKat policy that readers' comments should not be obscene or defamatory; they should not consist of ad hominem attacks on members of the blog team or other comment-posters and they should make a constructive contribution to the discussion of the post on which they purport to comment.

It is also the IPKat policy that comments should not be made completely anonymously, and users should use a consistent name or pseudonym (which should not itself be defamatory or obscene, or that of another real person), either in the "identity" field, or at the beginning of the comment. Current practice is to, however, allow a limited number of comments that contravene this policy, provided that the comment has a high degree of relevance and the comment chain does not become too difficult to follow.

Learn more here:

Powered by Blogger.