Commercial Court grants anti-suit injunction in copyright assignment context

16 May, 2019

In a judgment given on Friday 10 May 2019 in anonymised proceedings, Mr Justice Teare upheld and continued interim negative and mandatory anti-suit injunctions in favour of C (a German company) against two defendants – D1 (a UK company) and D2 (a Ukrainian company) – who are part of the same corporate group ultimately controlled by a single individual.

D1 had commenced arbitration proceedings in London against C following termination of the parties’ contract (PSA) concerning the design and manufacture of components for use in drilling rigs which C had separately agreed to supply to a third party state-owned gas operator. The PSA was governed by English law and provided for arbitration in London pursuant to the LCIA Rules. D2 subsequently commenced legal proceedings against C in the Economic Court in Kyiv, Ukraine in which it asserted ownership of copyright relevant to the components to be used in the drilling rigs by reason of a purported assignment of copyright to it (from D1) prior to commencement of arbitration by D1. In those Ukrainian proceedings, D2 sought and obtained without notice an interim injunction against C affecting C’s ability to supply the drilling rigs to its end-customer. There was a substantive overlap in the subject-matter of the parallel claims made by D1 (in the London arbitration) and D2 (in the Ukrainian proceedings) against C.

C sought anti-suit injunctive relief against both D1 and D2 on two separate legal grounds: (1) as against D1 and D2, on the basis of vexatious collusion and abusive parallel claims amounting to unconscionability; and (2) as against D2, for breach of its arbitration obligation as (purported) copyright assignee on notice of C’s contractual user licence contained in the PSA by operation of a statutory novation pursuant to s.90(4) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CPDA). This relief, including an interim mandatory injunction against D2 in respect of the Ukrainian interim injunction order, was granted and upheld at the return date on both legal grounds by reference to the applicable standard of proof for such injunctive relief.

Stephen Houseman QC and Iain Quirk, instructed by Kate Davies and Mark Levy QC of Allen & Overy LLP, appeared for C.

A link to the Approved Judgment will be provided when available