Intellectual Property: Unjustified Threats reform?

21-05-2012 12:40

Unjustified threats exist in certain kinds of intellectual property claims. With limited exceptions, a threat to bring a claim for infringement of patents, registered designs, unregistered design right or trademarks may be actionable by any person affected by the threat including a third party, e.g. a customer. 

The term “threat” is interpreted very widely and will include almost anything beyond a mere statement that the relevant rights exist. If a threat is actionable it may lead to claims against the maker of the threat (including a lawyer who wrote the threatening letter) for injunctions, damages and costs.

The idea behind the law of unjustified threats is that, whilst IP rights are very important to business generally, if the threat has not been made for legitimate reasons or on the basis of rights which are potentially invalid, much damage can be done to the recipient of the threat on a commercial basis.  

The Law Commission has recently confirmed that it is looking into the law in this area and will be reviewing whether to reform the law on unjustified threats.  It is publishing a consultation paper in February 2013 and expects that a report will be made to the Government in 2014.

You can find out more about it on the Law Commission’s website at:

http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/areas/unjustified_threats.htm

If you would like any more information on this area, please contact Emma Hayward.  And if you have had any experiences of unjustified threats that you would like to share, leave us a comment below.

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