Breach of Contract and Infringement of Copyright

The court has struck out as an abuse of process a technical and complex claim, the quantum of which it had assessed at £83.

The claimant had written certain technical articles for the defendants for which he was paid about £14,800. The claimant alleged that, in breach of contract and as an infringement of copyright, the defendants had permitted third parties to republish and use the articles. The claimant sought about £798 million in damages. He also accused the defendants of negligent misstatement and unlawfully resisting a copyright infringement claim, a tort which is unrecognised in English law.

The defendants sought to strike out the claims as an abuse of process under CPR 3.4(2)(b) relying on Jameel v Dow Jones and Co Inc [2005] EWCA Civ 75 and Sullivan v Bristol Film Studios Ltd [2012] EWCA Civ 570.

Those decisions stress the importance of proportionality and proper use of the court’s resources where little is at stake. They also recognise the value that certain remedies only available from the court (such as an injunction) might well have to a particular claimant and the importance of assessing the possibility of a party having his dispute heard by a judge without incurring disproportionate expense.

The point of interest in this case is that, applying those principles to the present case, the judge’s only option was to strike out the claim. That was because, given its nature and complexity, there was no other forum in which it was suitable to be heard and, having assessed its value at such a small figure, it would have been disproportionate to allow it to proceed to a two day trial in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court.

(The claimant’s quantum calculations were flawed because he had never granted a licence with royalties calculated on an even remotely comparable basis to those on which his claim was based.)

Lilley v DMG Events Ltd [2014] EWHC 610 (IPEC) (12 March 2014)

Written by James Naylor

Partner, CG Naylor LLP.