In these proceedings the defendants argued that EGA' case on infringement should be embodied in a pleading in order to achieve clarity and so that the defendants (i) could see whether there was a reasonably arguable case, (ii) could assess the shape of the action and formulate their own case, and (iii) could prepare their product and process description (PPD).
Mann J refused the application on the basis that, in the circumstances, the letters from EGA's solicitors were likely to be treated in the proceedings as though they were a pleading. In his view:
* since the defendants' operations took place on ships in the middle of the sea, EGA was relying on publicly available materials in order to give the best particulars it could of the allegedly infringing acts.
* what was requested by the defendant was something that was not usually done in patent cases and which appeared to be unnecessary in the circumstances. The letters from EGA's solicitors appeared to be full, frank and comprehensive. While the case set out in them was subject to variation after disclosure, that would be the normal position with a pleading.
* the defendants were sufficiently tied down to their case in the correspondence, and it would be a waste of time and costs to require a pleading -- there being nothing to be gained from the small degree of additional fixing which would result from a pleading.
* if the defendants wanted to apply to strike out the claim, they had the information on which to make a decision.
* if a pleading gave better particulars, the defendants might even be slightly worse off from that point of view and EGA would not be prevented from adducing further information to meet any strike-out application.
At this distance from the case and with no further facts, it's difficult to know whether the defendants were trying a crafty ploy or genuinely seeking clarification of EGA's claims. Either way, the court appears to have taken an approach which is both cautious and pragmatic.