Injunctions against Innocent bystanders

08 October 2018

Sloane Street is lined with the outlets of retail brands. They own trade marks. They face competition from cheap imitations sold on the internet through web sites with addresses which change. No-one knows who the sellers are, or where they are. Their identity is concealed. No effective injunction can be obtained against them. The imitated brands obtained internet blocking injunctions against BT and other service providers requiring them to block access to identified web sites and addresses to which they migrate. At first instance and in the Court of Appeal the internet service providers resisted the injunctions because they committed no wrong and were entirely innocent. The case went to the Supreme Court on who should pay the expenses of implementing the injunctions.

Injunctions are granted for a purpose. The injunction jurisdiction rests on current policy. The Mareva injunction is a consequence of use of off shore companies, banks accounts and trust structures. The decisions in the time of Queen Victoria which denied Mareva jurisdiction were founded on policy which became out dated and unjust.

The internet blocking injunction is granted against the third parties to protect a copyright or trade mark right, and to promote the due administration of justice when no effective order can be made against the wrongdoer. The expenses of implementing them must be borne by the claimant and not imposed on the innocent party.

The same principles apply to cases, whether about Intellectual Property or not. Injunctions cannot and do not depend on case law on the limits to the jurisdiction exercised by the old High Court of Chancery over disclosure of documents in the time of Charles Dickens. That jurisdiction was not available against the innocent bystander, a mere witness. In Victorian England there was no internet. Times have changed.


The jurisdiction to grant injunctions against innocent bystanders is considered in The Jurisdiction to Grant Injunctions against Innocent Third Parties, published in The European Intellectual Property Review Volume 40 Issue 9 2018 , p 571, Steven Gee QC.

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