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  • Writer's pictureRosie Burbidge

EasyGroup asks: when should joint liability be determined?


A judge has ruled that issues relating to joint liability should be determined at the liability stage of a trial, rather than the quantum stage. The ruling came in a trade mark infringement and passing off claim brought by EasyGroup against six defendants that use the names Easirent and Easirentvans, and which had allegedly used "easycar" and "easy car" as keywords for Google searches (EasyGroup Ltd v ER Travel Services Ltd & Ors).


The six defendants are all related companies and individuals. In a short judgment, the judge, Master Clark, noted that the decision about when to try joint liability issues is “a discretionary case management decision”. She found that the relevant factors favoured trial on this issue at the liability stage. In reaching this conclusion, she noted:

  1. Very few IP cases proceed to a trial of quantum, so dealing with the issues at the liability stage will increase the prospects of settlement.

  2. Although postponement might lead to cost savings, this was not itself sufficient and the savings would only occur if the claimant lost on primary liability.

  3. The additional costs of determining joint liability at the liability trial stage are not great in relation to the overall costs of the claim, as they will not require extensive factual inquiry. She accepted EasyGroup’s estimate that it would only one to two hours to the hearing.


Master Clark concluded: that “trying the joint liability issues at the liability stage will enhance settlement by reducing the issues between the parties, and that this benefit is not outweighed by the additional costs of doing so, which costs may well be incurred in any event at the quantum stage.”


To find out more about the issues raised in this blog contact Rosie Burbidge, Intellectual Property Partner at Gunnercooke LLP in London - rosie.burbidge@gunnercooke.com


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