Norwich Pharmacal orders: what, who, where

Written by Samuel O’Toole | July 20, 2020

IP Disputes

Often in the case of litigation and disputes it can be hard to identify an infringer. For example, the infringer may have set up an anonymous account and be using that to hide the infringing activities. Whilst we can send cease and desist letters to email accounts, realistically a legal letter landing at the door of the would be infringer has a greater impact. In addition, when we look to issue court proceedings we will need the address of the infringer, without the infringers details getting any form or result can often be a mammoth task.

The case of Norwich Pharmacal Co. v Commissioners of Customs and Excise 1974 concerned a patent infringement; the claimants were unable to locate the names and addresses of the infringer but knew the infringing goods were being imported from overseas. The claimants went onto bring an action against the Commissioners of Customs and Excise seeking an order from the court to have the Commissioners disclose the details of the infringer.  You guessed, it this case gave rise to the Norwich Pharmacal order (NPO). The law in this area has developed and, essentially, if a party is unable to locate or obtain the identity of an infringer, and without those details they are unable to pursue their claim and justice, the court has discretion whether to grant an NPO to require a third party to disclose the details of the alledged wrongdoer.  

The more recent case of Collier & Ors v Bennett 2020 concerned an application to the court for a NPO, the proceedings related to an anonymous Twitter account “Harry Tuttle/@arrytuttle”. The claimants’ position was that that the entity behind the account has undertaken a campaign of victim defamation and harassment against them.

The claimants were able to uncover certain pieces of information and ultimately held the believe that a Mr Daniel Bennet was Harry Turtle. Mr Bennet did admit responsibility for the account but refused to answer whether he was the author of the tweets. Ultimately, the judge in these proceedings ordered Mr Bennet to disclose the identity of the person or persons posting tweets on the account along with the meta data and analytics.

The law can move slowly but it does move and evolve, in context a case that arose in 1974 now assists parties in, amongst others, uncovering the details of the user behind a Twitter account – I’m sure the judges then didn’t see it coming but I don’t know if the same is true of Mr Bennet (who is actually a barrister).

Are you the victim of a targeted campaign, is someone infringing your rights but you just don’t know who, well why not give one of Briffa’s expert lawyers a call where we will be more than happy to arrange a free consultation to advise you on the best way to deal with such matters.

Written by Sam O’Toole, solicitor

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