JMW successfully defends its copyright in the IP Court against Hayes Connor

18th March 2021 Intellectual Property

JMW is a nationwide full-service law firm, with offices in Manchester, Liverpool and London and has been providing legal services and advice for both businesses and individuals for over 40 years.

Of JMW’s over 500 staff, Nick McAleenan heads up JMW’s Reputation Management, Data Rights and Media team, which recently acted in the high profile case against WM Morrison Supermarkets PLC.

Over the last decade, Mr McAleenan and his team have worked tirelessly on establishing a reputation in the data protection legal sector and painstakingly created and refined, case winning arguments and strategy for this specialist area of law. As part and parcel of being expert in an area, the team had created tried and tested letter of claim and other such copyright material.

Copyright Infringement

In late 2019, Mr McAleenan received a familiar looking letter of claim from local “expert data breach” law firm, Hayes Connor. Indeed, the letter contained large quantities of verbatim text, written in his style and using his language and seemingly copied from Mr McAleenan’s own earlier letter, which he had worked on with Laura Wilkinson of JMW. JMW promptly wrote to Hayes Connor to complain of copyright infringement and demand that they immediately cease using JMW’s copyright material.

As documents filed at court subsequently discussed, Hayes Connor’s then Managing Director, Mr Kingsley Hayes, initially denied copyright infringement, although they agreed to change their own letters of claim going forward. However, this was not completed fully and Hayes Connor’s letters of claim continued to infringe JMW’s copyright for another 6 months.

In their defence, Hayes Connor pointed the finger at their instructed counsel for providing them with an infringing letter. However, the barrister stated in their court pleadings that Mr Kinglsey Hayes and Hayes Connor were aware that the template he had provided them had derived from the work of JMW and/or another law firm. In addition, the barrister explained that while they had provided Hayes Connor with draft correspondence on a number of occasions, they had not given them permission to duplicate their work en masse.

IP Court Proceedings

Unfortunately, attempts to resolve the dispute at the pre-action stage were not successful.

The matter was passed to JMW’s resident intellectual property expert, Philip Partington, to bring matters to a satisfactory conclusion for the firm.

As such, on 11 May 2020, JMW issued a claim for copyright infringement and flagrancy against Hayes Connor, Mr Kingsley Hayes and others in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court in London.

Despite initially disputing JMW’s copyright infringement claim, following a case management conference on 21 January 2021, Hayes Connor and Mr Hayes submitted to judgment on the basis that copyright in the Work subsisted with JMW and that they had infringed the Work without the licence of JMW, reproducing a substantial part of the Work and issuing copies of the same to the public.

Damages

Upon a determination that a party has infringed another’s copyright, the business that has been infringed is entitled to either damages or an account of the infringer’s profits resulting from the infringement.

In this case, the Court was told that during the early stages of the proceedings, Hayes Connor disclosed that it had sent 50 infringing letters on its client’s files. However, this was later revised up to 150 infringing letters, and then revised upwards again to 242 infringing letters. In short, Hayes Connor had made a business out of infringing JMW’s copyright.

In order to bring the proceedings to an early conclusion, the parties agreed that Hayes Connor and Mr Kingsley Hayes would pay JMW the sum of £45,000 in damages, along with JMW’s legal costs in bringing the claim.

Conclusions

For many businesses, copyright is not seen as a valuable asset. However, the effort, skill and labour which goes into creating even relatively simple documents can be extensive and a large investment. Given that investment, it is important that businesses seek to prevent copy-cats from taking advantage of their efforts.

If you think that your work has been copied and you would like to discuss your legal options, please contact us on 0345 872 6666 and speak to our IP law experts.

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Philip Partington is a Partner located in Londonin our Intellectual Property department

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