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But we settled that! (Brands & IP Newsnotes - Issue 2)

28 March 2016

Parties will understandably often be relieved to sign on the dotted line of that “full and final” settlement agreement. But two decisions of the High Court earlier this year may give pause for thought. What is the practical effect of such a settlement and is it really what the parties want?

A stretch too far?

Stretchline, a clothing manufacturer, and H&M, a clothing retailer, resolved a patent infringement dispute by entering into a full and final settlement agreement. When further infringing items came to light Stretchline pursued a claim for breach of contract and patent infringement, seeking an injunction and an account of profits. Things might have unravelled for H&M. But it was Stretchline who came unstuck. First, the Court of Appeal ruled that the settlement agreement had settled all claims in the proceedings, including all claims for patent infringement, meaning any future claim would be for breach of the agreement. Secondly, the High Court ruled that while an injunction and account of profits may be standard remedies in IP infringement claims, they are very much the exception in breach of contract claims. And this was a breach of contract claim. So no injunction and no account, potentially putting Stretchline in a much less favourable position. But at least it had a remedy in damages.

Silentnight…but no relief

Bed and mattress manufacturer, Silentnight, was not so lucky. It failed to convince the Court that it should be entitled to any relief or proceed to a trial in respect of various breaches of a settlement agreement. Although the Court found that competitor, Silent Sleep, had not complied with a number of settlement terms, including failing to assign certain trade mark applications and failing to transfer a domain name, it was not convinced that any serious harm had been suffered. Interim relief was therefore inappropriate and it would be a waste of the Court’s time if the case went to trial.

This article was published in the Brands & IP newsnotes publication - issue 2.

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