Full case report

Bloomsbury Publishing Group Ltd v News Group Newspapers Ltd (No.2)

Reference [2003] EWHC 1205 (Ch)
Court Chancery Division

Judge Sir Andrew Morritt VC

Date of Judgment 23 May 2003


Summary

Intellectual property – Copyright – injunction – whether an injunction could be obtained against an unnamed party -John Doe injunction


Facts

The claimants were the publishers and the writer of the “Harry Potter” series of books, who sought to have the injunction granted by Laddie J on 7 May 2003 continued (see Bloomsbury Publishing plc & J K Rowling v Newsgroup Newspapers Ltd) as against the second defendant, an unnamed person or persons, in respect of the fifth book in the “Harry Potter” series, copies of which had been unlawfully removed from the printers and offered to the press. The claimants had applied for injunctions to restrain breach of their copyright. The application against the first defendant newspaper group had been disposed of by way of undertakings, and the third to sixth defendants had been arrested and charged and had submitted to orders against them.


Issue

Whether the injunction against the second defendant should be continued until the date of the book’s publication.


Held

There was no requirement that a defendant be named, so long as the description of the defendant was such that both those who were and those who were not affected by the injunction could be identified. There was no potential injustice if the injunction was continued but significant potential injustice to the claimants if it were not. Accordingly, the injunction was continued.


Comment

This judgment provides a valuable precedent for acting against persons unknown in order to restrain a breach of copyright/confidence. In many instances where a particular publication is eagerly anticipated (particularly by other sectors of the media) there has in the past been a tendency for disloyal employees to attempt to sell a copy of the work before the publication date to rival publications. The availability of injunctive relief against unnamed persons (providing the threat can be made out) would potentially assist in those circumstances.


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Instructing Solicitors

Schillings for the Claimants; Treasury Solicitor (instructing advocate for the Court)


Links

Harry Potter and the lawyer's brief - The Independent
Rowling wins ban on Harry secrets - Daily Record