Stretchline Intellectual Properties Ltd v H&M Hennes & Mauritz UK Ltd is a Chancery Division, England and Wales, decision of Mr Justice Sales from 14 October. Sales J is not a judge who is normally associated with patent litigation, but this case did not require the application of any rocket science. The judgment was extempore and this case has been picked up only by the subscription-only Lawtel case note service.
method of manufacturing tubular fabric for incorporation in the production of brassieres. Stretchline previously suspected that H&M was selling bras, made by other companies, which incorporated fabric that infringed its patent. and went to court accordingly. H&M's defence was invalidity plus a counterclaim for revocation. These proceedings were settled. Some years later, Stretchline received information causing it to suspect that H&M had returned to its errant ways. Stretchline made some test purchases from H&M stores. then commenced these proceedings. However, in its particulars of claim Stretchline pressed two inconsistent claims: it both sought to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement and alleged acts of infringement, which had been pleaded in the original proceedings, on the basis that H&M had repudiated the settlement agreement. H&M maintained that the patent had at all material times been invalid and denied breaching the settlement agreement.
It's good to see the court affirming the principle that voluntarily-made settlement agreements should be given the fullest effect, but one wonders what the drafting of the agreement in this case was like. The ideal settlement agreement will cover possible post-agreement outcomes, of which breach by an alleged infringer is one of the more predictable ones. However, it can happen that a settlement agreement is agreed only at the cost of it having something of an open weave, with loosely-drafted terms that one or other party are less likely to agree to.