Intellectual property rights are so potent that the law gives remedies to people aggrieved by threats of infringement actions. That means more than just threats made against alleged infringers: an IP owner cannot try to get a solution by scaring retailers away from stocking the goods which/that are the problem. Instead, they must allow their rights to be tested in court, where rights are quite often found to be invalid.

The remedy has recently been extended into a novel area. In Quads 4 Kids v Campbell, the claimants were advertising dirt bikes on eBay. The defendant told eBay that they infringed his design rights, and under its so-called VERO procedure eBay removed the listings without enquiring further into the defendant's rights.

Mr Justice Pumphrey took the view that Mr Campbell's allegation would have been understood by eBay to mean that he could bring infringement proceedings against them. Because of the potential damage to the claimant, and also because of Mr Campbell's inability to meet a damages claim, the judge granted the injunction to stop him interfering with their listings, pending the outcome of the main action.

The VERO procedure is a very useful mechanism for dealing with some of the egregious infringements of intellectual property rights which are encountered on eBay. But rights owners will have to use the mechanism with care now it is clear that it is akin to issuing a threat of proceedings. And the courts might not stop there: the next step might be for them to apply the same reasoning to domain name complaints. Think carefully before invoking one of these less formal procedures!