Bloomsbury Publishing Group Ltd v News Group Newspapers Ltd & Others

Reference: [2003] EWHC 1087 Ch

Court: Chancery Division

Judge: Laddie J

Date of judgment: 7 May 2003

Summary: Intellectual property - Copyright - Confidence - Conversion - Injunctions - whether an injunction could be granted against an unnamed person -John Doe injunction

Instructing Solicitors: Schillings for the Claimant; News Group Newspapers Legal Dept for the Defendant


The Claimants were the publishers and the writer of the “Harry Potter” series of books, who sought an injunction as against an unnamed person or persons, to preserve confidentiality, restrain breach of copyright and prevent conversion 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.


(1) Whether an injunction could be granted against an unnamed person.
(2) Whether an injunction should be granted.


Had the identity of the person or persons been known, the court would grant the injunction without hesitation. Reference was made to Tony Blain v Splain [1994] FSR 497, NZHC. A defendant may be identified by his actions rather than by his name. The persons concerned are known to exist and would be in no doubt that the order was directed at them. Injunction granted.


Surprisingly, given the long history of John Doe injunctions in the United States, this was one of the first such injunctions granted in the UK under the CPR. There was a subsequent hearing ([2003] EWHC 1205 (Ch) reported at [2003] 1 WLR 1633, [2003] 3 All ER 736) before Sir Andrew Morritt VC where the terms of the injunction were amended to enjoin: the person or persons who have offered the publishers of the Sun, the Daily Mail, and the Daily Mirror newspapers a copy of the book ‘Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling or any part thereof and the person or persons who has or have physical possession of a copy of the said book or any part thereof without the consent of the claimants. It was held that provided the descriptions used are sufficiently certain to identify both those who are included and those who are not, then an injunction may be granted and it does not matter that the description may apply to no one or more than one person.