Leeds firm Geofabrics wins £13.4m compensation in ‘David vs Goliath’ patenting court case
An order in favour of Leeds-based Geofabrics, which specialises in manufacturing geotextiles and geocomposites, was made in the High Court of Justice last week.
It follows a long-running patent dispute with Essex-based competitor Fiberweb Geosynthetics Ltd. The firm is part of US conglomerate Berry Global.
A spokesperson for Womble Bond Dickinson, the law firm which represented Geofabrics, said: “The court case relates to the protection of Geofabrics' geosynthetic Tracktex liner technology, which is protected by a patent filed in 2010. The liner is laid under a railway track for support and to prevent ‘pumping erosion’ from occurring which can lead to a failure of the track.
"A dispute arose when a competitor, Fiberweb Geosynthetics Ltd, was marketing a similar liner, Hydrotex 2.0, which Geofabrics believed fell within the scope of its patent. Fiberweb refused to withdraw the product when asked to do so in 2017, arguing that it did not infringe the patent, and also that the patent was invalid.”
Womble Bond Dickinson has described the case as a “David vs Goliath fight” due to the difference in company size between Geofabrics and Berry.
The size of the compensation award is unusual, with research finding that between 2000 and 2019 only four UK patent cases resulted in damages awards at a combined value of around £1.4m.
Legal proceedings in this case first began in 2018 with a judgement in favour of Geofabrics initially handed down by the High Court in March 2020. After the decision was appealed, the original decision was upheld in June 2021 and Hydrotex 2.0 was withdrawn from the market.
Geofabrics then took further legal action to claim back compensation on the basis that its product would have sold in greater volume and at a higher price had Hydrotex 2.0 not been on the market.
James Love, partner and Head of IP at WBD, said: "Patent owners are often reluctant to have the validity of their patents tested in court. It can be a challenge to prove the validity and it is not uncommon for the courts to revoke patent rights. This is one reason why few cases reach court, with typically only around 20 patent cases being decided in the High Court each year. Appeal court decisions and rulings on amounts payable are even rarer.
"This represents a landmark result for our client and we are very pleased that our national IP team was able to bring this complex litigation to a satisfactory conclusion."
WBD's team was led by intellectual property partner James Love, associate Tim Barber and solicitor Razvan Popa. They instructed Michael Hicks of Hogarth Chambers in respect of the advocacy, and Martin Chapman, assisted by Jaden Reynolds and Jack Clitheroe, forensic accountants at Azets.
Gordon Donald, Managing Director at Geofabrics, said: "We are delighted with the court's decision, which vindicates the protection of our intellectual property and encourages innovation.
"We are grateful to the teams at WBD, Hogarth Chambers and Azets for their assistance and hard work in bringing this case to fruition. It has been a pleasure working with James and the rest of the WBD team."
Berry Global was contacted for comment.