Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band See Off Litigant ….Who Has To Pay £50K Costs

A litigant in person who brought a court action accusing surviving members of a 1960s pop band of conspiracy to injure and malicious falsehood during a trade mark case has received short shrift from a High Court judge. In Slater and Ors v Anglo Atlantic Media Limited, Chief ICC Judge Briggs, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, awarded indemnity costs to the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. He lambasted the ‘prolix’ and ‘inadmissible opinion… bare assertion and irrelevancies’, in the LiP’s evidence.

The dispute began when the band challenged a figurative trade mark containing its name filed in 2015 by Robert Carruthers, who had organised Bonzo Dog reunion concerts, on behalf of his company Anglo Atlantic Media. In October last year the registrar of trade marks granted an application cancelling the mark, ruling it had been filed in bad faith and invalidly registered. The registrar’s judgment noted that the proceedings had been ‘hard fought in an often emotionally charged manner’.

While the case was in progress, Carruthers issued High Court claims making allegations about the conduct of the band’s application. A 74-page witness statement included allegations of ‘racist and sociopathic tendencies’. The case was heard in the Rolls Building in February.

Handing down judgment by Skype, Briggs J dismissed Carruthers’ claims as totally without merit. One claim constituted ‘collateral attacks on the findings of the registrar’ while the allegedly defamatory statements were covered by absolute privilege. He concluded: ‘The overall impression one gets… is that Mr Carruthers is on a mission to defeat the band and raises every point he can think of, regardless of relevance, to achieve his aim.’

Appearing for Carruthers at the hand-down, Kwabena Owusu of Clerksroom chambers argued that the £50,000 costs claimed were excessive as the witness statements had been examined with an ‘unreasonable level of detail’ by West End firm Trainer Shepherd Phillips Melin Haynes LLP, which acted for the band. The judge rejected the argument, describing it as ‘a submission of “save me from myself”,’ adding that the quoted hourly rate of £375 was ‘considerably lower than some I have seen’.