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Court Accepts Jurisdiction in High Value Patent Dispute

Following a preliminary skirmish in a high value dispute between overseas companies, concerning ownership of a technology patent, the High Court has narrowly accepted that it has jurisdiction to resolve the matter purely on the basis of the parties’ conduct.

A German company was the registered proprietor of a patent relating to energy saving technology for use with fluorescent tubes. The patent had, on the face of it, been assigned to the German company by a Cayman Islands company. However, the latter argued that the director who executed the assignment had done so without authority and that it was therefore of no legal effect.

The Cayman Islands company launched proceedings before the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, seeking a declaration to that effect. However, it faced the German company’s arguments that the courts of England and Wales had no jurisdiction to hear the matter, which it was submitted should be tried in Germany.

The Court agreed that, as a matter of European law, it would not normally have enjoyed jurisdiction. However, it noted that the German company, whilst nominally reserving its position with regard to jurisdiction, had participated in the English proceedings and ‘entered into argument’ as to the merits of the matter. In those circumstances, the German company had, by its conduct, expressed an overall willingness for the dispute to be resolved in England.