15 December 2020TrademarksSarah Morgan

Juul secures default judgment against competitor

The English High Court has approved vape manufacturer Juul’s request for default judgment in its case trademark and registered design infringement suit against Smoke Nation.

In a ruling handed down on Thursday, December 10, Justice Mann of the High Court granted the default judgment but refused to grant the declaratory relief the vape manufacturer had sought through a summary judgment ruling.

Juul had submitted an application for judgment in default and for summary judgment against Smoke Nation, which it accused of selling counterfeit empty pods.

According to the court, Juul had served its particulars of claim, but the defendant had not acknowledged service or served a defence.

While Mann granted the default judgment, he refused to make broader declarations as there was no active dispute between the parties and a declaration may have an effect on third parties.

“When one analyses what the claimants are seeking in this case it is almost the determination of disputes with unidentified third parties before those disputes are actually raised by anyone, determined by reference to broadly stated facts which may apply in other cases and without reference to other facts which may be applicable,” said Mann.

He added that Juul would wish to suggest that a granted declaration was “binding” on third parties.

“Otherwise there is no point in it. They would also no doubt press it as a precedent in any litigation which ensued. I do not think it right to place such a weapon in the hands of the claimants when the point has not been argued,” concluded Mann.

According to the High Court, courts “frequently decide cases of a public importance going way beyond the interests of the parties” but these cases are ones where “clearly defined issues are in issue between parties who argue each side, and in many if not most cases the relief will be more case-specific in its framing, and not couched in terms of general factual scenarios such as those proposed in this case”.

Mann noted that his decision was fortified by his consideration that under some heads of claim, Juul’s representative “does not have a particularly appealing case”.

He added: “Juul seek[s] declarations that selling refillable pods is not in accordance with honest commercial or industrial practices because buyers might fill them with all sorts of undesirable material. I have serious doubts about that argument being successful, though I am not ruling against it.”

A spokesperson for Juul said: “Juul Labs continues to work towards protecting adult consumers from illicit vapour products and will aggressively enforce against manufacturers that actively infringe on its IP rights and undermine public health.”

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