Prof. David Vaver Presents “Mr. Justice Laddie and his Intellectual Property Cases: Of Millefeuilles and a Fish Called Elvis”

Man standing behind a table
Prof. David Vaver presenting the 14th Annual Sir Hugh Laddie Lecture (Screenshot from UCL Recording on YouTube channel)

Sally Yoon is an IPilogue Writer, IP Innovation Clinic Fellow, and a 3L JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.


On June 22, 2022, I had the pleasure of tuning into the 14th Annual Sir Hugh Laddie Lecture. Over the years, the lectures have been delivered by distinguished experts from across the globe. This year, the lecture was delivered by our own Professor David Vaver, Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Osgoode Hall Law School, the first Chair in Intellectual Property & Information Technology Law at the University of Oxford, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, member of the Order of Canada, and Member of IP Osgoode’s Advisory Board. The lecture was delivered in person at the UCL Cruciform Lecture Theatre and live-streamed for viewers across the world.

Sir Hugh Laddie was born in 1946 and studied law at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge. He was a judge of the High Court of England and Wales, a professor, and a leader in the field of intellectual property. Since his passing in 2008, the Institute of Brand and Innovation Law (IBIL) at the University College London (UCL) Faculty of Laws has organized and delivered Annual Sir Hugh Laddie lectures, in honour of Justice Laddie, the founder of IBIL.

Prof. Vaver began the lecture by summarizing strands of Justice Laddie’s thinking – he believed IP legislation, which is not different from other legislation, should be looked at as a whole, and that precedence he believed to be misguided should be challenged. He then mentioned three maxims that guided Justice Laddie’s career and offered a general view of his philosophy. A few examples, translated from Latin, being “if someone’s got a right, do something about it”, “in equity, good folk win, bad folk lose”, and “deep pockets shouldn’t always prevail”. As a result of the combination of these strands of thinking, Justice Laddie was able to firmly stand for what he believed intellectual property should and should not do, over the course of his career.

Additionally, Prof. Vaver recognized some of Justice Laddie’s significant contributions to trademark, copyright, and patent law. His contribution to trademarks included extending common law protection to unregistered geographical indications when he ordered Cadbury to stop passing off its British-made bars as Swiss chocolate, cautious of Cadbury’s marketing tactics potentially fooling customers.

In copyright, Justice Laddie warned us about the possibly of being misled by similarity by excision, that is, “chipping away and ignoring all the bits which are undoubtedly not copied may result in the creation of an illusion of copying in what is left”. Moreover, in an effort to determine what was actually copied in a work, he considered whether the work as a whole or its individual components should have their own copyrights. Eventually he rejected the concept of multiple copyrights, noting that legal millefeuilles with layers of different artistic copyrights would be “slicing too finely or indiscriminately”.

Lastly, Justice Laddie’s approach to the Haberman Feeder case demonstrated his values regarding patentability. The Haberman Feeder, named after its inventor Mandy Haberman, is a specialty bottle which uses a slit valve and is especially useful for feeding babies with feeding difficulties. When the patent for the bottle was challenged for obviousness, Justice Laddie considered the long history of infant feeders (and the absence of anything like the Ms. Haberman’s bottle within it), utilizing unique perspectives to see the value in otherwise readily available solutions.

Overall, Prof. Vaver’s lecture was a wonderful way to remember his valuable contributions and to learn more about the diverse topics (as the title suggests) he dealt with in his career in intellectual property. Justice Laddie’s lasting mark on each of his cases makes it easy for us to remember annually why he remains a cherished figure in the field of intellectual property law.

You can watch UCL’s full recording of the lecture here:

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

eight − 7 =