Proprietary rights in payment of bribes and secret commissions coming home? Perhaps this week.

The Football World Cup as global drama seems, by dint of the sheer brilliance of the players, to have shaken off preoccupations about the beautiful game’s darker subplot – including the Qatari allegations of bribes and secret commissions. It is currently speculated that such payments, if proven could result in a re-run of the entire bidding process for the staging of the 2022 World Cup. The case of FHR Ventures LLP v Cedar Capital Partners (and Mr Mankarious) is more modest in remedial terms – the principal seeking to recover back the value received by the agent (the first measure of the agent’s enrichment), or the value surviving (the second measure of enrichment) or traceable in the hands of the agent or third parties (if a proprietary claim is for the first time recognised by the Supreme Court) in agency type cases.

Relevance of this bribery case to Universities:

All Government contracts contain provisions relating to the criminal law and the Bribery Act 2010, however any University would still have to fall back on the common law to seek the recovery of bribes and secret commissions in all their general contracts so this week’s appeal is highly relevant to our general contracting position and a useful reminder of the current state of the law.

The question before the UK Supreme Court this week does not perhaps include the category of corrupt payments in the form of a bribe, however it does include the remedial consequences of secret commissions, and bribes to agents, and whether the beneficiaries could seek recovery not merely as a personal claim but also upon a constructive trust, and allow recovery on a proprietary basis.

This is an age old problem – best illustrated by the nineteenth century case of Lister v Stubbs [1890] 45 Ch D 1 (the claim against an agent receiving a secret commission, the principal being confined to only a personal claim for value received by the agent) closing off any possibility of a proprietary claim by trust, constructive or otherwise. Lister was not followed in the later Privy Council decision (a bribe case involving a Government prosecuting official) in Hong Kong v Reid [1994] 1 AC 324.

The Supreme Court website has put the question on appeal as follows:
Does an agent who receives a secret commission hold the sum paid on constructive trust for his principal(s) giving rise to proprietary rights?
The facts
The applicants in the appeal are a company called Cedar Capital Partners (CCP/’Cedar’) who together with a Mr Mankarious entered into an agreement (an exclusive Brokerage Agreement) with the owners of a hotel in Monte Carlo, for Cedar to arrange for the sale of the hotel in exchange for a fee of €10m. Cedar subsequently acted as agent on behalf of the respondents in the appeal, who were a consortium who wished to purchase the hotel for €211.5m. The €10m fee was paid to Cedar in accordance with the Brokerage Agreement within 5 days of the owners of the hotel receiving the payment price for the hotel from the consortium. The €10m fee (paid by the vendor to the agent Cedar) was a payment unknown to the consortium (purchasers) on the facts.
When the consortium discovered the payment of the €10m to Cedar/Mr Mankarious, they sought recovery of the payment from Cedar/Mr Mankarious. They succeeded before Justice Simon in obtaining an account for the €10m, however the judge held that the claim was personal only (‘in personam’) and the money held by Mr Mankarious was not held on a proprietary basis, on a constructive trust or otherwise.

The Court of Appeal reversed this decision, and held that in receiving the secret commission, Cedar/Mr Mankarious had exploited an opportunity properly belonging to the consortium, and accordingly the €10m fee was to be held on a constructive trust, which was proprietary in nature, and therefore traceable as surviving enrichments in substitutions (eg. where the €10m was used to purchase property as a substitute for the original enrichment, or paid into or converted into property through other media such a bank account etc).
This proprietary quality in the enrichment is the subject of the appeal – a claim and legal right not previously recognised at the highest Court level in relation to agents receiving secret commissions or bribes.
The general concern has been to disallow a beneficiary principal gaining priority in an insolvency claim in the insolvent fraudster’s estate, but this legal policy might change next week.

There are seven Supreme Court Justices listed; and Lord Collins has been called back into the squad as an impact player for his understanding of Company law, insolvency and priority. It would be mixing metaphors to say he has come off the bench, in fact being called back ‘to’ the Bench!

Lord Collins appears to have been the first instance judge in Daraydan (etc) v Solland (etc) [2004] EWHC 622, involving the recovery of bribes and secret commissions charged in the refurbishment of luxury properties in London and – er Qatar. In the event that the current law of Equity undergoes a change this week, in recognising that the receipt of a secret commission or a bribe has proprietary consequences and that beneficiaries could indeed engage in the process of tracing, identify and follow substitutions made in the property to its ultimate surviving value or indeed into the hands of a third party, it will arguably add to the armoury of the victims on the margins of bribery and fraud. So as in the World Cup, there is still ‘everything to play for.’

First Instance decision of Simon J:

Court of Appeal decision of Lewison LJ:

the decision of Lawrence Collins J in Daraydan (etc) v Solland (etc) [2004] EWHC 622:

Costs in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court: Considering conduct of the parties when assessing costs – Access to Justice?

Please find attached an interesting short article (following the previous Blog of 26 March 2014 herein) on the issue of costs in the recent case for making groundless threats of infringement of patent (contrary to section 70 of the Patents Act 1977), that was brought against Mr Perry.

Mr Perry apparently on 26 March 2014 circulated a letter purportedly written by ‘Mr Justice Hacon’; bizarrely reversing the decision in the proceedings. What happens in relation to costs in the light of this and other ‘intemperate’conduct as classified by the Judge?

One of the reasons the IPEC has been celebrated as a great success in terms of Access to Justice for Intellectual Property litigants, small businesses and individuals alike, is that win, lose or draw, the costs cap is set at £50,000.00. The IPEC has been a successful model Court because of the constraint put on costs – can a party’s conduct lead to release of such constraint?

The Judge indicated that the circulation of the purported letter by Mr Perry was a further example of ‘intemperate and eccentric behaviour’ (paragraph 14) in the conduct of of those proceedings; however it is difficult (in the view of the writer) to discern when the conduct of a party becomes ‘truly exceptional’ having regard to the conduct of the parties when assessing costs. Judge Hacon’s decision, notably paragraphs 10 to 17 (under the heading ‘Departure from the costs cap and scale of costs’) explains why in this case the total award of costs against Mr Perry was not granted above the cap of £50,000.00.

Further Judgment of Judge Hacon of the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) dated 2 April 2014

IPKat Blog discussing the above costs decision:

Volkswagen v Garcia: Academic publication and interaction with commercial interest

Please find attached a link to an interesting short discussion of the Injunction case of Volkswagen v Garcia, heard in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court before Justice Birss (formerly the Patents County Court) in June 2013, from the Lexology legal feed; illustrating that there are limits to freedom of academic publication when balanced against legitimate commercial interests. Further discussion of the Volkswagen injunction, involving UK academics will follow in a later blog.

Trade Mark infringement and Confusion of Brands: Universities and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Please find attached a link to the case, and a Case Note in relation to the Brand confusion case (Regent University v Regent’s University London). This was an interim proceeding between a US and private UK University, heard recently in the Intellectual Property and Enterprise Court.

CK2609Regent UniversityvRegentsUniversityLonBlog

IPKat Blog: Legal Blogs useful for ‘keeping up to date’

Following a recent request from a colleague as to a good way of keeping up to date with the mass of legal changes, especially in the field of Intellectual Property, I recommend the IPKat blog as a good start, which can be found at:

The following sites post daily changes:

The live feed for the UK Supreme Court is at:

A daily feed for legal updates in many areas of law:

For published legal cases and other legal authorities:

I hope the above assists.

Newspaper Licensing Agency (et al) v Public Relations Consultants Ltd (et al): temporary downloading of copyright from the Internet



Please see attached a short note of the appeal currently before the UK Supreme Court regarding the ambit of the section 28A exception to copyright infringement (the making of temporary copies) and when the section 28A exception could be relied upon.

Confidences (Confidential information) and agreeing the periods for which they should be kept

Exchange of confidential information under a Non-Disclosure Agreement (or Confidentiality Agreement)

In most standard Non-disclosure Agreements (NDAs) the clause relating to the period for which the confidences should be kept between the parties (or third parties) will refer to a definite period of time, for example 5 years.   

The period for which confidences are to be kept will run from either the date of the disclosure under the agreement, or from the termination date.  The period hit upon is often a matter of instruction from the client, sometimes the client places such importance on the confidential information (invention, trade secrets, design, all manner of commercially or otherwise inherently sensitive information) that they would wish the confidences to be kept, if at all possible, forever. 

In the University sector, given that there is a constant commitment to wide dissemination of knowledge or information through academic publication and other channels, shorter time periods of 5 years are often agreed, in light of the fact that so much information by its very nature ends up rapidly in the public domain. 

A typical clause for general commercial use, or for research agreements would read:

‘The provisions of this clause [the clause setting out the confidences that should be kept – e.g. a large category including know-how, trade secrets, operations, plans, processes, copyrights etc] shall survive any termination of this agreement for a period of 5 years from termination.’ 

Some NDAs refer to a window of time, in which the confidences are exchanged, for example for 1 year running from the start date of the agreement, and so the only confidential information caught in the net is that exchanged in a defined period.  In such cases, you need to carefully ensure that the confidential information is also (in another clause in the agreement!) to be preserved for an unlimited time, or for the temporal period of 5 years for example.  

The above issues are under current review in regard to the precedents in current use.  However, simply because the product of Research or information is often aimed to be in the public domain as quickly as possible, and widely disseminated, it does not mean that there are confidences that should be kept and for long periods of time.