IP litigation: how to go toe-to-toe with the big boys
When it comes to intimidation and bullying – I’ve seen my fair share as an IP lawyer. Experiences that vividly spring to mind are being called “rank” across the table in a mediation, by non-other than a partner I’d formally worked with (!) when I made a killer legal point in front of his client. Interestingly, my client (who was an American) had missed the fact that the legal victory was mine but was very impressed by the visceral reaction of my opponent. Indeed, once out of the meeting he told me I should have shouted back to make my point more clearly.
Then there was the time that I’d started up on my own 10 years ago, and one of my clients received an application for an interim injunction with a Magic Circle firm on the other side. The big corporate who’d instructed the Magic Circle firm must have thought they could steam roller both me and my client. They were wrong. We went to Court with just me and my barrister versus a Partner, and his 2 assistants and a QC on the other side. We won hands down and recovered virtually all our costs. You see to use a boxing analogy “it isn’t how big you are, it is how hard you punch”. And if you really know the law and have prepared your client then you can usually hold your own.
Big names throwing their weight around
IP is one of those areas of law, where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. It is a complex and dynamic area in which to practise the law. Not surprisingly we do see quite a lot of mistakes made other law firms, sadly even when they say they specialise in IP. By way of example, we see lots of cases where SME’s are intimidated by household names – especially when it comes to trading online and trade mark infringement. Classic cases include scenarios where a garage does specialist repairs but isn’t an authorised dealer. So, for example, where a garage services and repairs BMWs, they are perfectly entitled to use a domain name that includes something along the lines of bmwserviceleeds.com or similar.
Other examples include training people on Sage software and calling yourself “sagetrainer.com” or similar. Provided you’re not using someone else’s trade mark deceptively then it is usually OK to use it. However, the big brands regularly object – and 9 times out of 10, it is a relatively small business that they come after. Sometimes they engage a big London law firm to write the letters just to make the other side feel under pressure from a big expensive law firm.
In an increasingly brand aware society, the big names have a lot to protect in terms of their reputation. If they don’t defend themselves then their reputation can be anything from slightly damaged to destroyed by unauthorised use of their name. With that in mind, they too are sometimes resort to litigation as a form of legal intimidation.
But you don’t have to instruct very expensive London lawyers to defend yourself.
You do, however, need an experienced team of experts on your side.
It was for precisely those reasons that I set up Virtuoso Legal all that time ago. I believed then as I do now that SMEs really need insight and advice on their most valuable assets – their IP.
Being able to hold our own against the big boys was also one of the reasons Virtuoso Legal joined the UK200 Group. It is great to be surrounded by like-minded professionals who aren’t afraid of doing challenging accounting or legal work with consummate expertise.
If you need help landing the right punches, contact us at: