Who? James Love, partner and head of IP at Womble Bond Dickinson, Leeds.
Why is he in the news? The firm successfully represented Geofabrics Limited in a long-running patents dispute with a competitor over its geosynthetic Tracktex liner technology, which culminated in a final order by the High Court awarding Geofabrics £13.4m in compensation.
Thoughts on the case: ‘A reason this case is significant is its rarity. Like most IP disputes, it was heard as a split trial. The first trial concerned liability, with a judgment that the patent was valid and infringed, upheld on appeal, and an injunction awarded. In the Patents Court, part of the Chancery Division of the High Court, relatively few cases come to trial each year, maybe a couple of dozen. However, the real rarity is a further quantum trial to assess compensation, in this case £13.4m. Disputes seldom reach this next stage for a variety of reasons – an injunction is often the primary goal, the infringing product may not have been on the market long enough to have caused substantial damage, or simply the parties have by then become “litigation fatigued”. In the last 40 years, we have identified fewer than 10 cases where the Patents Court awarded a sum in damages, leading us to believe this could be the highest Patents Court award ever. Of course, the legal aspect is also of interest, with the court placing itself in a “counterfactual” world to decide such matters as, what would have been the size of the market and the achievable prices had, fictionally, the infringing product never been introduced.’
Dealing with media: ‘Judgment in the case has generated a fair amount of media interest both from the legal press and from the trade. Principally, this has concerned the amount awarded, rather than the legal niceties, with the subtleties of patent damages calculations being lost.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I studied science at university with the full intention of going into research. Just before finals, I spotted an ad by a law firm aimed at scientists and I applied for work experience. Half way through the week, they offered me a training contract, which I accepted in preference to a job offer in silicon chip design.’
Career high: ‘Taking a patent case to the House of Lords, 22 years ago. I lost, but the sense of occasion it evoked remains with me. Little did I know that my son, aged four at the time, would end up working there.’
Career low: ‘My first job as a trainee was to draft a deed. As a precedent, my supervising partner gave me an important signed original deed about to be sent for registration. I took a photocopy and enthusiastically scribbled all over it with amendments – only to realise I had scribbled on the original. I still remember the feeling of blood draining from my face as I approached the partner’s office to explain.’