A recent trade mark case in the field of complementary medicine was significant in a number of unusual aspects.
Mr Justice Neuberger found that Hereford-based Healing Herbs was right in saying that BACH as a name for flower remedies was generic.
The result was that the judge ordered a revocation of the BACH-word trade mark registrations of a subsidiary of Nelson's - a leading UK producer of homeopathic medicines.
Geoffrey Hobbs QC, who led for Healing Herbs, had as his junior James Marshall, a partner at Taylor Joynson Garrett.
This was the first time a Taylor Joynson Garrett High Court advocate had appeared in a major trial. Not to be outdone, Michael Bloch, who led Henry Whittle (instructed by Cameron McKenna), took silk immediately after the trial, announcing at the same time his engagement to Camilla Bingham (a member of his chambers and daughter of the long-lost Lord Lucan).
The trial came 13 months after proceedings were started. Keenly contested throughout, and with evidence from 120 witnesses, Judge Neuberger presided over it in a model fashion, extending courtesy to practitioners and witnesses alike (which brings out the best in the lawyers as well as those in the box).
Although more than 80 witnesses were called for cross-examination, the trial kept to the estimated eight days. All issues were dealt with fully but economically in terms of court time.
How did this happen? It was a combination of specific (not general) discovery, detailed skeleton arguments, the trading of issues which were not pursued (res judicata by the respondents and bad faith by the applicants), all evidence in chief being by affidavit, with cross-examination of between about 10 and 25 minutes per witness (aside from the two principal witnesses) and cutting the witness list by about one-third using actual and deemed CEA notices.
The eight-day hearing was achieved, with the judge allowing two days off for writing closing submissions.
It is in this kind of regime that justice is done as we approach the end of the century. It would have been better if the case had been thoroughly judge-managed from the outset but otherwise it is doubtful whether Woolf would have improved upon it.