The High Court has ruled that a contract claim against retailer Sports Direct should be stayed until the claimant has paid the correct court fee.

Lifestyles Equities and Lifestyle Licensing had paid a £480 fee after making a claim alleging registered trademark infringement and/or inducement of breach of contract.

The £480 fee is prescribed as payable for a ‘non-money claim’, but the judge challenged this categorisation. A money claim in excess of £200,000 would be liable to a £10,000 fee. 

The claimants say they are unable to quantify their damages but believe them to be ‘substantial’. They undertook to pay the appropriate court fee if they succeed on liability.

The defendants applied to have the claims stayed and sought an inquiry as to damages suffered. They argued the claimants were, in addition to the trademark infringement claim, making a free-standing claim for inducing breach of contract.

The claimants said an inquiry as to damages called for an additional assessment and inquiry by the court, and that assessment would not be made until the quantum phase of the claim of the action.

They said they had undertaken to pay the appropriate fee in advance of this.

Ruling in Lifestyles Equities CV & Anor v Retail Ltd, Master Clark said the dual nature of the claim meant the fee was not correct.

‘The existence of the claim for an inquiry as to damages for inducing breach of contract is, in my judgement, fatal to the claimants’ argument that the whole of their claim is a non-money claim,’ he said.

‘The fact that an inquiry requires an assessment by the court as the amount of the damages is not sufficient for it to be a non-money claim. A claim for damages is a claim for money; the task undertaken by the court is determining the amount of money payable.’

Clark ruled that the claimants had not paid the appropriate fee and that the claim would be stayed until that fee is paid.