Posts on this blog represent my opinion. It may be my considered opinion on the basis of my formal study of law and technology. But it is not legal advice. It must not be treated as, or acted upon as, legal advice and no liability is accepted for doing so.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Sir Hugh Laddie, 1946-2008

Like many students and practitioners of intellectual property law, I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Sir Hugh Laddie, formerly Mr Justice Laddie and one of the most influential IP judges of the last few decades. I was tempted to write a more lengthy review of his life, but I see that William Patry has temporarily returned from his blog exile to post a more fulsome and heartfelt tribute than I could ever manage.

I will, however, add a personal note. I became interested in law through supporting my wife in a court case over a very messy inheritance dispute. Such cases, especially where the estate is substantial, are tried by Chancery Division judges of the High Court, the branch of the judiciary that includes the Patent Court and its judges. So, as it happened, the judge who heard our case was none other than Mr Justice Laddie. I was later to read that one of the reasons he resigned from the bench was his discomfort at hearing cases outside what he felt to be his area of specialist expertise. If that was the case here then he showed no sign of it; indeed, as the central legal issue (undue influence) was one where the law is simple but weighing of the evidence is paramount, his incisive mind and firm grip upon proceedings served him well. As, for that matter, did his sense of humour during what was at times a distressing and unpleasant case for all concerned. (I fondly recall his anecdote to counsel regarding the difference between dementia and that common condition, 'male middle-aged inattention'.)

We won our case. It feels odd to say that I am grateful to Sir Hugh for that, as I feel we won because our cause was right. But I am grateful to him for approaching it in a manner that did full justice to our cause, and for igniting in me the spark of interest that led me to start studying law. As my technical background led me to IP, I soon discovered his wider claim to fame. But I'll always remember him best for his decision in Bradshaw v Hardcastle [2002] EWHC 2816 (QB).