How wide should injunctions be

Following on from his ruling that Idameneo’s use of its trade mark breached its contractual obligation not to use a trade mark capable of being confused with Symbion’s trade mark, Jessup J has granted an injunction:

The Respondent be permanently restrained, whether by itself or through its subsidiaries from using the Respondent’s Mark.

Three aspects for comment:

First, Symbion sought and his Honour refused to grant an injunction that Idameneo not use its trade mark or “any trade mark, device, brand or logo which is similar to or capable of being confused with” Symbion’s trade mark (i.e., reflecting the terms of the contractual obligation).

In support of that application, Jessup J was referred to a number of cases proclaiming that the usual form of order for infringement of an intellectual property right was an order restraining the respondent from infringing the applicant’s [intellectual property right]. His Honour pointed out, however, that none of those cases established that such an order should be made in the case of breach of contract as a matter of principle.

Jessup J accepted that such a wide injunction might be an appropriate exercise of discretion in a particular case. However, there was nothing in this case which warranted that course:

here is nothing in the facts – or in the dynamics – of the present case which would provide any basis for the suspicion that, if it were precluded from using its present mark, the respondent would devise some artful similarity of the applicant’s mark, or would “sail close to the wind” as it is occasionally said.  If the orders which I made on 13 May 2011 stand, the respondent will be obliged to rebrand its business, its sites and its stationery.  Nothing suggested by the applicant, and nothing which otherwise occurs to me, would give reason to suspect that the respondent would have the slightest interest in adopting a new logo or image which was confusingly similar to the applicant’s mark.  If, contrary to this expectation, the respondent were to do so, it is true that the applicant would be obliged to bring fresh proceedings, but I have little doubt but that the court would not then be readily forgiving of the respondent for failing to keep a sufficient distance between its own new mark and that by reference to which the applicant succeeded in this proceeding.

Secondly, despite the terms of the injunction, Jessup J supplemented it with a further order to:

remove and destroy all signage, corporate stationery, flyers, posters, leaflets, brochures and any other promotional, advertising and marketing materials (whether in hard copy or electronic format) and garments which bear the Respondent’s Mark and which are in the possession, power, custody or control of the Respondent or its subsidiaries

and to deliver up an affidavit confirming all that mayhem has taken place.

Finally, his Honour granted a stay of the injunction – for 6 months or, if Idameneo appealed, for 6 months from the date the appeal was concluded. There is no discussion of the reasons for the stay, so it appears to have been uncontroversial between the parties.

Symbion Pharmacy Services Pty Ltd v Idameneo (No 789) Limited (No 2) [2011] FCA 531