In a stark warning to litigants that they can forfeit their legal rights through inactivity, judgment for substantial damages and costs has been entered against a defendant in a patent infringement action which failed to meet a document filing deadline.

The company, which was accused of selling costume masks bearing photographs in violation of the patent holder’s rights, had been warned that unless it filed a defence by a particular date it would be precluded from defending the action. The defence was not filed until three days after expiry of that deadline.

Although acknowledging that the delay was ‘very short’, the patents county court said that it had to be seen in the context of the company’s conduct in the dispute overall. Refusing to grant relief against the consequences of the company’s failure to comply with the court’s order, the court noted that it was ‘not a mere technicality’ that it had also failed to make a formal application for relief. The defence eventually filed was in any event ‘wholly inadequate’, begging as many questions as it answered.

As well as directing a summary assessment of damages and costs that the company must now pay without having the opportunity to defend itself, the court issued an injunction against the company forbidding further infringements of the patent and delivery up of any offending goods in the company’s possession.