In Niche Products Ltd v MacDermid Offshore Solutions LLC  EWPCC 11, an ongoing case between rival producers of hydraulic fluids in the oil industry, the Patents Count Court (“PCC”) refused a stay of proceedings despite a parallel action having been commenced in Texas.
The facts of the dispute were as follows: the Defendant (“MacDermid”) changed the formulation of one of its fluids to comply with EU law. MacDermid assured customers that the essential properties and characteristics of the fluid remained the same. The Claimant (“Niche”) produced a report which it said showed the new product performed very differently to the previous one, MacDermid produced a rebuttal.
Niche brought UK proceedings in the PCC against MacDermid for malicious falsehood, on the grounds that MacDermid’s rebuttal of its report was exactly that; however, (allegedly after UK litigation became apparent but before it had commenced) MacDermid commenced an action against Niche in Texas for false and misleading advertising, it then applied to having the UK proceedings stayed.
MacDermid first sought to obtain a stay on the grounds of forum non conveniens i.e. that another forum is more convenient and appropriate. The PCC stated that the correct approach to this issue was to identify which forum would be most suitable for the interests of the parties and the interests of justice. The PCC refused the stay on this ground, holding that both parties were international operations and that neither location was sufficiently geographically inconvenient for either. It also accepted that there was a risk of dual proceedings. However, the dispute was one that had originated in the UK, as a result of EU regulations and documents originating in the UK.
Secondly, MacDermid applied for a stay on case management grounds (pending resolution of the action in Texas). The PCC acknowledged its ability to make such a stay based on the principles of the overriding objective (i.e. deal with cases justly, expeditiously, fairly and proportionally). However, the stay was also refused on this ground. The PCC held that the costs of the additional action were incremental when added to the Texas proceedings, and that such costs did not justify a stay which could last for over a year during the time the Texas proceedings were being resolved.