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National Pharmacy Association

Pharmacy2U loses legal battle for contact details of NPA members

Pharmacy2U has lost its High Court battle to obtain the contact details of members of the National Pharmacy Association who received a December 2017 leaflet the company deemed “disparaging”.

Pharmacy2U, the UK’s largest online pharmacy, has lost a legal bid to obtain the contact details of National Pharmacy Association (NPA) members after a judge expressed concern that the company could “pick off” individual members.

Pharmacy2U initially threatened to sue the NPA for trademark infringement arising from the content of an information leaflet sent out to members in December 2017.

According to the judgment, the leaflet highlighted “the particular value” brought to the local community of a “locally based independent pharmacy and small business, as distinct from an online supplier”.

Pharmacy2U argued that the leaflet’s “primary purpose is to disparage the services” it offered, and demanded the contact information of those that received the leaflet to ascertain “the extent of the damage to its reputation” and “to correctly judge what other actions it should take to minimise and correct the damage”.

However, in the High Court judgment published on 14 December 2018, the judge, Master Clark, said she was “not willing to make an order” for the disclosure of the contact details because of “a serious risk … that Pharmacy2U would therefore be able to ‘pick off’ the individual members, without ever having to submit to a judicial determination of the merits of its claim”.

She added that bringing a claim against each member “for each (minor) act of infringement would, in my judgment, be disproportionate, and not an appropriate use of the court’s resources”.

She added that this concern was “reinforced to a degree by Pharmacy2U’s conduct to date”, detailing an occasion where solicitors wrote to a GP practice on behalf of Pharmacy2U in correspondence described as “very intimidating … threatening to report them to their regulatory body, the General Medical Council”.

Commenting on the judgment, the NPA said: “The court has seen this for what it is — a completely unjustified and unreasonable attempt to obtain details of our members in order to intimidate them.

“We are confident there is no trademark infringement case to answer either. If Pharmacy2U thinks otherwise, it should challenge us and not our members, who we will defend to the hilt.”

Pharmacy2U declined to comment.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205910

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