Every once in a while brands and businesses come across an opponent who just won’t stop, even if the legal merits of their case is against them.
This happened to our client, a small business that had the bad luck of trading with a brand name that was also used by someone else. They weren’t in the same industry but they were located close to each other. Our opponent ignored the fact that his business wasn’t being genuinely damaged by our client’s activities and he was quick to issue court proceedings. As soon as this happens in a dispute, the stakes rise.
Our client was suddenly facing a long and potentially very expensive court battle just to keep the name that she had spent so much time building. Often this is the point at which defendants give up and this normally comes in the form of a financial offer. Effectively a nuisance payment to buy the defendant out of the situation which has been forced upon it. But our client didn’t want to do that. Why should she pay an aggressor who had no right to make the claims that he was making (particularly as they were being accompanied by malicious and highly personal social media posts)?
Instead, we developed a strategy to fight the claim all the way through to completion on a budget that our client could afford.
The court we were in (the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court) has a cap of £50,000 on recoverable legal costs for the successful party. Often legal fees exceed this cap and parties need to take a view on what they’re prepared to spend in order to obtain a favourable judgment. This is compounded by the fact that legal costs are assessed at the end of the trial and the general rule is that the court only awards about 70% of the spend, meaning that parties often end up out of pocket.
However, our client didn’t have £50,000 to spend. Her business could barely afford half of that. So, we fought the case, we kept the budget as tight as we could and we won. We successfully established that the claim against our client was baseless and the court awarded our client the right to claim her costs. Fortunately, we managed to limit our spend to £19,000, in spite of the matter running for over a year. And, instead of only getting back the usual 70%, the court awarded us 99%. A recovery that was almost unheard of and a result that allowed our client to continue to build on the success of her existing brand.
We dealt with a complicated set of proceedings against an extremely aggressive opponent. We guided our client through a stressful and difficult process and leveraged our experience with disputes to ensure that we could defend the matter without costing the earth. We instructed a brilliant barrister with whom we have a close working relationship. He knew how we worked and why we were obsessive about keeping costs down. This kind of teamwork and understanding is vital in litigation and without it, the outcome could have been very different.
With an unlimited legal spend, most legal issues can be resolved in your favour. It’s a harsh fact but it is a reality. However, our clients want a legal team who can achieve a successful outcome without bankrupting them in the process (which seems reasonable to us). This means that we need to do more with less, we need to leverage our skills and those of our Counsel and focus on the important aspects of legal disputes without getting distracted by the things that don’t matter. It should be possible to get access to justice even if your business is small, it’s something we believe very strongly and it’s the founding ethos for our firm.
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