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Imprisonment for directors who fabricated evidence

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07/03/2014

In our January newsletter, we reported on the case of Utopia Tableware Ltd v BBP Marketing Ltd and another [1], in which the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court ruled that a UK registered design for a beer glass was valid and infringed by the defendants’ glass.

That, however, turned out not to be the last word on the case.

During the proceedings, the claimant company was granted an interim injunction on the basis of witness statements (signed with statements of truth) provided by two of its directors. That interim injunction was continued at a later hearing. The defendants subsequently admitted that they had copied the claimant’s design and the claimant told the court that it no longer relied on the directors’ evidence.

Later on in the process, the directors admitted that their evidence was untruthful. It was, in the words of the judge “deliberately fabricated to mislead the court in order to advance the claimant’s interests”, and the two men “had conspired together to present false evidence and to lie in their witness statements. False emails had been created and presented to the court as genuine.”

Having ruled that it had jurisdiction to do so, the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court – at the time still called the Patents County Court * referred the matter to the Attorney General, with a request that he consider whether to bring proceedings for contempt of court.

The Attorney General duly obliged and the two directors were sentenced on 31 January 2014 to respectively six months’ and two months’ imprisonment. The irony, of course, is that their company actually won the case anyway, without the need for their fabricated evidence; the determining elements of the decision, as noted in last month’s newsletter, were the available prior art.

We understand the directors – now former directors – are appealing against their sentences.

The lesson in this case is not one about fabricating evidence. So much is – hopefully – obvious. It is the approach of the IPEC, showing once more than it is no push-over. Its procedures must be treated with respect and the consequences for failing to do so may be severe.

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[1] [2013] EWHC 3483 (IPEC)

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