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eBay's VeRO programme challenged: Quads4Kids v Campbell

In a judgement handed down on 13 October 2006 (Quads4Kids v Campbell [1006] ALLER (D) 162 (Oct)) Mr Justice Pomfrey held that the invocation by Mr Campbell of eBay's Verified Rights Owner ("VeRO") could amount to a groundless threat under Regulation 2 of the Community Design Regulations 2005 (SI 2005/2339); granting an injunction against Mr Campbell.

Mr Campbell held a number of registered Community design rights for children's dirt bikes.  He claimed that Quads4Kids sale of dirt bikes on eBay infringed his design rights.  Accordingly he invoked the VeRO programme, which amounts to an automated take down procedure following the completion of an online form.  eBay did not check the validity of Campbell's rights.  The VeRO programme was intended to protect eBay from claims of indirect infringement. 

Quad4Kid's claimed that it was selling the bikes in question prior to Campbell's application and therefore his registration was invalid on the grounds of prior publication.

Regulation 2 states:

"where any person (whether entitled to or interested in a Community design or not) by circulars, advertisements or otherwise threatens any other person whith proceedings for infringement of a Community deisgn, any person aggrieved thereby may bring an action against him for .. (a) a declaration to the effect that the threats are unjustifiable [and] (b) an injunction agains tthe continuance of the threats ..".

This judgement means that anyone invoking a take-down complaints system may have to justify his or her actions. 

E-mails and signatures .. when does a name become a signature

The recent judgement of Mehta v Pereira Fernandes SA [2006] EWHC 813 (Ch) provides the answer. 

In short, if you sign an e-mail using your full name or last name, with or without initials or your first name, and even a pseudonym or a combination of numbers and letters with the intention of verifying a communication then this will be a valid signature.

An e-mail with just an e-mail address in the "From" field (as inserted automatically by your e-mail client) will not constitute a signature in itself. 

While this case did not deal with signature lines (i.e. the text which automatically appears at the end of an e-mail typically identifying an individual and giving his or her contact details) it would seem that this would not be a signature as it would be an automatic insertion without the necessary intention of giving authenticity to the communication.

Identifying yourself is not the same as saying you agree to something.

If you insert a name or other identifier in an e-mail with the intention that it should act as signature then it will bind you and it need not appear at just the end of the e-mail either.

This judgement is entirely consistent with the Electronic Communications Act 2000.

Denial of service prosecution - acquittal
Updated 11 May 2006:  An appeal by the Crown Prosecution Service has been successful.  It was said:  "It was clear that the emails had resulted in the modification of the data on the company's computers so that the key question was whether L had consent to that modification. The owner of a computer able to receive emails would ordinarily be taken to have consented to the sending of emails to his computer. However, such implied consent was not without limits, and the consent did not cover emails that had been sent not for the purpose of communication with the owner but to interrupt his system."  (Judgement)

District Judge Kenneth Grant, sitting in the Wimbledon Magistrates Court, has just ruled that a youth (who can't be named for legal reasons) is not guilty under s3 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

The youth had sent 5 million e-mails to his former employer, causing it to crash.

This judgement is problematical as it now means that anyone can mount a denial of service attack in the UK.  Either we will need an amendment to the Computer Misuse Act 1990, as some have argued is necessary, or we need a successful appeal.
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