Alfred Dunhill v Sunoptic – Case Summary

Alfred Dunhill Ltd v Sunoptic SA

Court of Appeal

Citations: [1979] FSR 337; [1979] CLY 2694.

Facts

The claimants were well-known tobacco and luxury goods manufacturers, with a subsidiary who sold sunglasses in the United States. They operated under the marks ‘Dunhill’ and ‘Dunhill of London’. The defendant proposed to sell sunglasses under the mark ‘CD Christopher Dunhill – London’. The claimants sought an interim injunction to prevent the defendant from using that name. This was denied by the trial judge. The claimants appealed.

Issue(s)
  1. Was there a serious issue to be tried, in accordance with the American Cyanamid criteria for granting an injunction?
  2. Would damages be an adequate remedy for the claimant, in accordance with the American Cyanamid criteria for granting an injunction?
  3. Where does the balance of convenience lie?
Decision

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and granted the injunction. They held that there were serious issues to be tried relating to fraud and the claimant’s reputation. If the injunction was not granted, the claimants might suffer reputational loss which could not be adequately compensated in damages. The evidence of hardship or injustice to the defendant was weak, so the balance of convenience favoured an injunction.

This Case is Authority For…

Reputational loss is difficult to quantify and undo. As such, if the claimant might suffer reputational harm if the injunction is not granted, they have a strong case for damages being inadequate.

Other

The High Court judge held that there was a serious case to be tried even though he considered the claimants’ evidence very poor. This was because he could not say for certain that the case would definitely fail. That finding indicates that there is a very low threshold for what is considered a ‘serious case to be tried’.

The matter was not discussed in detail by the Court of Appeal. This was because the claimants had provided better evidence for their case at that stage. However, the Court of Appeal did not fault the judge’s reasoning.

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