The defendant freight forwarding agent was innocently in possession of consignments of counterfeit cigars in transit to Germany through a London dock. The action was not for discovery, but for an order restraining the forwarder from releasing the goods and an account of damages, on the footing that he had himself infringed the mark. The forwarder volunteered the names of the consignors and agreed to submit to whatever order the court should make. That left only the question of the costs of the action.
Held: Lord Romilly MR accepted that the forwarder was not an infringer, but thought that he would have been if after being told of the infringement he had not performed his duty. His duty in Lord Romilly’s view (p 145) was ‘at once to give all the information required, and to undertake that the goods shall not be removed or dealt with until the spurious brand has been removed, and to offer to give all facilities to the person injured for that purpose.’
If through no fault of his own a person gets mixed up in the tortious acts of others so as to facilitate their wrongdoing, he is not personally liable, but he does have a duty when called upon to disclose the identity of the wrongdoer.
Lord Hatherley LC, Lord Romilly MR
(1871) LR 12 Eq 140, 7 Ch App 130,  UKLawRpEq 101
England and Wales
Applied – Norwich Pharmacal Co and others v Customs and Excise Commissioners HL 26-Jun-1973
Innocent third Party May still have duty to assist
The plaintiffs sought discovery from the defendants of documents received by them innocently in the exercise of their statutory functions. They sought to identify people who had been importing drugs unlawfully manufactured in breach of their . .
Cited – British Steel Corporation v Granada Television Ltd HL 7-May-1980
The defendant had broadcast a TV programme using material confidential to the plaintiff, who now sought disclosure of the identity of the presumed thief.
Held: (Lord Salmon dissenting) The courts have never recognised a public interest right . .
Cited – Norwich Pharmacal Co and others v Customs and Excise Commissioners CA 2-Jan-1972
The plaintiffs sought discovery of the names of patent infringers from the defendant third party, submitting that by analogy with trade mark and passing-off cases, the Customs could be ordered to give discovery of the names.
Held: Buckley LJ . .
Cited – Smith v ADVFN Plc CA 15-Apr-2008
The claimant complained of defamation on internet bulletin boards. He made an application to require the forum operator to disclose IP addresses and other information about posters under a Norwich Pharmacal order. Further applications were made for . .
Cited – Banker’s Trust v Shapira CA 1980
Enforcement through innocent third party bank
Two forged cheques, each for USD500,000, had been presented by two men and as a result USD1,000,000 had been transferred to accounts in their names. The plaintiff sought to trace assets through the banks involved.
Held: The court approved the . .
Cited – Aoot Kalmneft v Denton Wilde Sapte (A Firm) Merc 29-Oct-2001
The court ordered relief by way of disclosure against a third party: ‘In Norwich Pharmacal the information required was the identity of the wrongdoer (the applicant knew what wrong had been done but not who had done it) but I see no reason why the . .
Cited – Various Claimants v News Group Newspapers Ltd and Others ChD 12-Jul-2013
The claimants sought disclosure by the police of information relating to the phone hacking activities said to have been conducted by journalists engaged by the first defendant newspaper. They were wanting to make claims against the respondent, but . .
Cited – Cartier International Ag and Others v British Telecommunications Plc and Another SC 13-Jun-2018
The respondent ISP companies had been injuncted to stop the transmission of websites which infringed the trade mark rights of the claimants. The ISPs now appealed from the element of the order that they pay the claimants’ costs of implementing the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 29 July 2021; Ref: scu.181334