Hugh Laddie, 1946-2008

January 8, 2009

Hugh Laddie, an iconoclastic High Court judge who became a professor of intellectual property law, has died.

He was born on 15 April 1946 and educated at Aldenham school in Hertfordshire before proceeding to St Catharine's College, Cambridge, to read medicine. He then switched to law and was called to the Bar in 1969, became a QC in 1986 and eventually became the second of two patent judges in the Chancery division in 1995. He was also the co-author of a definitive textbook, The Modern Law of Copyright and Designs.

As a leading authority on intellectual property, Sir Hugh served as vice-chairman of the Copyright Tribunal and as counsel to the Treasury, representing the Government and Patent Office in relevant litigation. Outspoken, witty and a great believer in getting cases settled swiftly, he was celebrated for a number of important judgments in cases involving Elvis memorabilia, Arsenal football scarves and Series 5 software. He also invented a crucial legal instrument known as the Anton Piller order, which permitted a surprise search of the premises of pirate record manufacturers (to stop them hiding or destroying evidence).

Despite his illustrious career as a judge, Sir Hugh made the bold and controversial decision to step down in 2005 (the first person to do so since 1970), claiming that he felt bored and isolated - which could pose a threat to justice being, and being seen to be, done. He therefore took on two new roles as a consultant for Willoughby and Partners (now Rouse Legal) and as professor of intellectual property law at University College London. He soon proved highly effective in raising funds from his wide network of contacts to establish the Institute of Brand and Innovation Law. Just a few weeks before his death, he chaired a high-profile patent enforcement seminar.

Although Sir Hugh once wrote to a friend that he "thought being a professor entailed nothing more than walking around looking sombre while talking in obscure English", he took his academic duties seriously, becoming very popular with students and delivering a provocative inaugural talk on "The insatiable appetite for intellectual property rights". This argued that such rights should override "the normal discipline of competition" only in circumstances where they "advance the sciences or arts".

Dame Hazel Genn, dean of the Faculty of Laws at University College London, remembers him as "an extraordinary mixture of a titan in his field, incredibly single-minded and focused, and an unpretentious, charming, funny man - that's so rare. He was such a good colleague and always willing to do whatever he was asked to contribute."

Sir Hugh died on 28 November 2008. He is survived by his wife Stecia, three children and six grandchildren.

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