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Judge reprimands solicitors for “imbeclic request” comment

Rich Energy: F1 car sports disputed logo

A judge has criticised solicitors in a copyright infringement claim for describing a disclosure request made by the opposing side as “imbecilic”.

Her Honour Judge Melissa Clarke, sitting as a High Court judge, said there were no circumstances where one solicitor should use such language in correspondence with another.

The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court claim [1] concerned whether an antlers-style logo created by bicycle designer and manufacturer Whytes Bikes was infringed by one designed for an energy drink called Rich Energy, which sponsors the Haas Formula 1 motor racing team.

The defendants provided disclosure that included a number of single-page electronic PDF files, in response to which the claimant’s solicitors, Hall Ellis, noted they appeared to come from a single document, albeit with some pages missing, and asked for the whole document and certain other related correspondence and notes.

The defendants’ solicitors, Brandsmiths, said they did not believe that the requests were appropriate or required any explanation, and that the second one was “quite frankly an imbecilic request by you”.

They continued: “You are asking our client to provide more documents that could only ever support its case of independent creation.”

HHJ Clarke said: “I do not believe I should let that pass without comment. I do not consider that there are any circumstances in which one solicitor in the course of his professional duties should accuse another in writing of making imbecilic requests.

“That language is far removed from the professional courtesy which solicitors are expected to show each other and those they deal with.

“If a trainee solicitor sent the letter, as the reference suggests, the fact that it was sent in this form suggests a failure by the supervising solicitor properly to supervise.”

The claimant ultimately succeeded with its claim.