Dating Website Meets its Match In Courtroom Drama
In early May 2022, an interesting case was reported whereby a website, specializing in the provision of dating services to a predominantly Muslim audience, was involved in litigation proceedings. As a way of result the case, the court reviewed the evidence presented to it and held that intellectual property in the form of trademarks belonged to another dating website business named the Match Group.
However, the events of the day preceding the decision were the main feature of interest in the case and attracted the headlines. The day preceding the respective disclosure of the result and the handing down by the court of the judgment which held the Muslim dating website liable for breaching the intellectual property rights in the forms of trademarks owned by Match, the Asian dating website had attempted to publish an embargoed press release which purported to disclose that the website providing the Asian dating site had been defeated in its efforts to retain its name. Evidence also emerged that both the outcome of the case and the preliminary judgment in draft form had seemingly found their way into the public domain by way of a press release that was published without the permission of the court. This was even though the relevant judgment in question in the proceedings was the subject of an embargo.
The Draft Judgment Was Not Leaked To The Journalists And Released Into The Public Domain Intentionally, Was It?
The Court heard evidence directly from the witnesses and on the relevant court forms that the senior players who created the Asian dating website that they had raised with journalists the possibility of putting into the public sphere a press release. The judge presiding over proceedings in the High Court found that the creator of the brand had intentionally sought to release this information to the press. He was sure that this had taken place because during the court proceedings he had reviewed credible evidence that the original plan was to disclose the statement to members of the press in the form of:
- telephone conversation transcripts
- email-threads and
- other forms of communication.
Was The Website Owner Remorseful?
The High Court judge confirmed that he had seen evidence that the owner of the site was remorseful. The site issued to the court:
- a full apology
- it’s the reasonable and truthful belief that it had permission to disclose the judgment to selected members of the press
- that they reasonably believed that there was a condition attached by the court to the effect that the draft judgment can be released to these persons if such disclosure protected the confidentiality of the information contained within it.
What Did The Court Say?
The High Court considered the fact that the creator of the website held a genuine, honest, and reasonable belief that it had permission to disclose the embargoed draft court judgment to some journalists. The fact that the claimant made an error whilst acting honestly was positive. The judge struck the balance between the mitigating factors and recognizing the serious character of releasing embargoed judgments. Interestingly, the High Court perceived the apology by the Asian dating website as the conclusion of the matter and did not order contempt proceedings.
What Should Lawyers In Similar Cases Be Advising?
There appears to be a growing trend for courts to communicate their dissatisfaction with clients who publish embargoed judgments. Clients should be advised that publishing embargoed judgments is unwise and may be subject to:
- a rebuke
- proceedings for contempt of court and
- costs orders.
Courts may also be open to not pursuing contempt proceedings conditional upon a genuine apology being received.
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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES
 Caddick, N – Deputy High Court Judge – Intellectual Property Enterprise Court  EWHC - Match Group LLC & Anor v Muzmatch Ltd & Ors  EWHC 1023 (IPEC) (04 May 2022) (bailii.org)
 Tobin, S. – Dating Service latest to breach judgment embargo – Law Society Gazette – 4th May 2022 - Dating service latest to breach judgment embargo | News | Law Gazette
 Paragraph.2.4 of Practice Direction 40E to the Civil Procedure Rules
 R (on the application of the Counsel General for Wales) v The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy  EWCA Civ 181 ("the CGW case")
 The Public Institution for Social Security v Banque Pictet & Cie SA  EWCA Civ 368 ("the Banque Pictet case")
 R (Counsel General for Wales) v Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy  EWCA Civ 181
 Optis v Apple  EWHC 2694
 Tobin, Sam – Duke of Sussex’s lawyers criticized for embargo breach – 14 March 2022 - Duke of Sussex’s lawyers criticized for embargo breach | News | Law Gazette
 Tobin, Sam – Commercial partner apologies for judgment embargo breach – Law Society Gazette - 23 March 2022 - Commercial partner apologizes for judgment embargo breach | News | Law Gazette
 Tobin, Sam – Matrix offers ‘unreserved apology’ for breaching judgment embargo – 16 February 2022 - Matrix offers ‘unreserved apology’ for breaching judgment embargo | News | Law Gazette