Legal Updates

Intellectual Property – Copyright – Injunction – Inexplicable Delay

In the case of Clarke and another v Artprints UK and another, the court refused to discharge an interim injunction that was granted for copyright infringement.  The first defendant, Artprints UK, reproduced and distributed artworks. The second defendant was its majority shareholder. Artprints began to reproduce prints by the artist Francis Bacon under the terms of a licence it purported to have acquired from the owner of the copyright.

Clarke and another brought a suit against Artprints for copyright infringement, claiming that the licence was invalid because they in fact owned the copyrights in the artwork. On 31 July 2001, the claimants obtained an interim injunction against Artprints, which prohibited reproduction and distribution of the artwork until final determination at trial.

Over the next five years, a number of delays slowed the proceedings. Both parties agreed to vacate the first trial date in December 2002. The claimants then complained that the defendants failed to comply with proper disclosure. Further delay was attributed to the death of one of the claimants in March 2003. In May 2005 the defendants said that the proceedings had taken far too long and they would therefore take action to bring them to a conclusion but then did nothing.

The defendants brought an action to have the 2001 injunction discharged and claimed that:

▪     the claimants had brought about inexcusable and unexplainable delay to the proceedings;

▪     as the interim injunction was for the claimants’ benefit they were responsible for progressing the case expeditiously; and

▪     the injunction should be discharged.

The defendants argued that most of the delays were caused by the second defendant’s refusal to comply with the disclosure order. Furthermore, some of the delay was outside the control of all parties.

The court dismissed the application and held that:

▪     the claimants had purposely delayed proceedings because they benefited from the terms of the injunction;

▪     a substantial part of the delay was caused by the second defendant’s refusal to comply with the disclosure order;

▪     the other periods of delay had been all been agreed between the parties and were not the claimants’ fault; and;

▪     there were no grounds to support the claim that the order should be discharged.

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© RT COOPERS, 2006. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.




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