The House considered the liability, or not, to stamp duty of an agreement made in the UK. Under the Stamp Act 1891 an agreement made in the UK for the sale of any estate or interest in any property except lands or property locally situate out of the UK was chargeable with ad valorem stamp duty. The particular agreement was for the sale of the premises of a wholesale manufacturing business which was carried on in Germany together with the goodwill of the business, all of whose customers were in Germany.
Held: The goodwill was property locally situate outside the UK. Lord Macnaghten said: ‘It is very difficult, as it seems to me, to say that goodwill is not property. Goodwill is bought and sold every day. It may be acquired, I think, in any of the different ways in which property is usually acquired. When a man has got it he may keep it as his own. He may vindicate his exclusive right to it if necessary by process of law. He may dispose of it if he will – of course under the conditions attaching to property of that nature.’ and
‘What is goodwill? It is a thing very easy to describe, very difficult to define. It is the benefit and advantage of a good name, reputation, and connection of business. It is the attractive force which brings in custom. It is the one thing which distinguishes an old established business from a new business at its first start. The goodwill of a business must emanate from a particular centre or source. However widely extended or diffused its influence may be, goodwill is worth nothing unless it has a power of attraction sufficient to bring customers home to the source from which it emanates. Goodwill is composed of a variety of elements. It differs in its composition in different trades and in different businesses in the same trade.’
Lord Lindley said: ‘Goodwill regarded as property has no meaning except in connection with some trade, business, or calling. In that connection, I understand the word to include whatever adds value to the business by reason of the situation, name and reputation, connection, introduction to old customers, and agreed absence from competition, or any of these things, and there may be others which do not occur to me. In this wide sense, goodwill is inseparable from the business to which it adds value, and, in my opinion, exists where the business is carried on. Such business may be carried on in one place or country or in several, and if in several there may be several businesses, each having a goodwill of its own.’
Lord Robertson said: ‘I do not accede to the view that the goodwill is affixed or attached to the manufactory. Supposing that the products of the manufactory were all exported to England and sold to English customers, I should find it difficult to hold that the goodwill was out of England merely because the manufactory was. The application of the words ‘locally situate’ would then present a different question, requiring, I should think, a different answer. Again, if the facts as to the distribution of the products were more complicated, as, for example, if the trade were diffused over England and other countries, then the location of the goodwill would be a more complex, although I do not by any means think an insoluble, problem.
I confess I find no repugnancy in affirming of the goodwill of a business that it is locally situate somewhere. It is, I should say, locally situate within the geographical limits which comprehend the seat of the trade, and the trade. That sounds like a very cautious statement, and fortunately it is enough for the present question. It seems to me that in the statute the distinction drawn is between what from a British point of view we should call British property and foreign property; and the goodwill of a business which begins and ends abroad is, I think, property locally situate outside the United Kingdom.’
References:  AC 217
Judges: Lord Macnaghten, Lord Lindley, Lord Robertson
Jurisdiction: England and Wales
This case is cited by:
- Cited – Condliffe and Another v Sheingold CA 31-Oct-2007
The defendant had taken an assignment of the goodwill of a restaurant from the company of which she was a director. The plaintiffs as assignees of any claims of the company, now in liquidation, said that she was liable to account to them for the . .
(,  EWCA Civ 1043)
- Cited – Hotel Cipriani Srl and Others v Cipriani (Grosvenor Street) Ltd and Others CA 24-Feb-2010
The claimants owned Community and UK trade marks in the name ‘Cipriani’. The defendants operated a restaurant in London using, under the licence of another defendant, the same name. The claimant sought an injunction to prevent further use of the . .
(,  EWCA Civ 110)
- Cited – The Athletes’ Foot Marketing Associates Inc v Cobra Sports Ltd ChD 1980
The plaintiff, which carried on a retail shoe franchising business mainly in the United States, had prospective franchisee in England but had not commenced trading there. There was an awareness in England of the plaintiff’s trade name and activities . .
( RPC 343)
- Cited – Starbucks (HK) Ltd and Another v British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc and Others SC 13-May-2015
The court was asked whether, as the appellants contended, a claimant who is seeking to maintain an action in passing off need only establish a reputation among a significant section of the public within the jurisdiction, or whether, as the courts . .
( ETMR 31,  ECC 19, ,  UKSC 31,  WLR(D) 229,  1 WLR 2628, , ,  3 All ER 469,  FSR 29,#, UKSC 2013/0274, , )
These lists may be incomplete.
Last Update: 21 November 2020; Ref: scu.260189