A High Court judge has publicly admonished a law firm for its choice use of language when writing to opposing solicitors. As part of a judgment in a copyright infringement claim, Her Honour Judge Melissa Clarke said the use of the word ‘imbecilic’ in response to a disclosure request could not pass without comment. 

The defendants’ solicitors in ATB Sales Ltd v Rich Energy Ltd & Anor, litigation firm Brandsmiths, had responded to the disclosure requests last September by saying they were not appropriate. The response, said to be drafted by a trainee solicitor, added: ‘This is quite frankly an imbecilic request by you.’ 

In her ruling, the judge said: ‘I do not consider that there are any circumstances in which one solicitor in the course of his professional duties should accuse another in writing of making imbecilic requests.  

‘That language is far removed from the professional courtesy which solicitors are expected to show each other and those they deal with. If a trainee solicitor sent the letter, as the reference suggests, the fact that it was sent in this form suggests a failure by the supervising solicitor properly to supervise.’ 

Bad relations appeared to continue when the claimant made a Part 18 request for further information. Brandsmiths responded, following what the judge called a ‘great deal of harrumphing’, by accusing the claimant solicitors of a ‘scattergun approach of throwing as much mud at our clients in a hope that something sticks’. 

The judge reminded the parties of the responsibilities of solicitors and counsel when considering whether to plead or allege fraud or dishonesty. She added: ‘It is an act of professional misconduct to make such allegations without specific instructions and without having material which on the face of it justifies those allegations.’ 

The claimant, a bicycle designer and manufacturer using a stag’s head as part of its logo, sought an injunction to require the removal of the logo from the Forumla 1 race car and website of the Rich Energy Haas Formula 1 motor racing team. 

The judge ruled that the claim succeeded, that the claimant’s copyright was infringed and they are entitled to injunctive relief and for damages. 

A spokesman for Brandsmiths said the firm noted the judge’s comments, but given the case is still live he was unable to comment at this stage pending its resolution.