The UK’s largest online pharmacy has failed in a legal bid to obtain the contact details of thousands of independent community pharmacies after the High Court refused its request. The legal proceedings arise from the NPA’s December 2017 information leaflet about Pharmacy2U (P2U).
P2U initially threatened to sue the NPA for defamation, malicious falsehood and trademark infringement arising from the content of the leaflet. It demanded the NPA disclose the names and contact details of every NPA member who had received the leaflet and also sought a retraction and public apology, using wording P2U prepared themselves.
The NPA defended against P2U’s allegations and P2U were subsequently obliged to withdraw the threats of defamation and malicious falsehood. However, P2U then decided to claim that the NPA was guilty of trademark infringement for using the name ‘Pharmacy2U’ in the leaflet.
In particular, P2U said the leaflet does not fairly compare its services with those offered by NPA members. P2U has not disputed the truth of the statements in the leaflet but said its primary purpose is to disparage the services offered by [P2U]. P2U said the leaflet was an attempt to rubbish the value of [P2U’s] brand and divert business away from [P2U] to [NPA’s] members.
In July, P2U issued High Court proceedings asking the Court to require the NPA to supply the names and addresses of all NPA members who had received the leaflet. The NPA defended P2U’s claims. Following a hearing last month, the High Court has now issued a Judgment denying P2U’s request. Pharmacy2U must also pay the NPA’s costs of the legal proceedings.
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 P2U think otherwise they should challenge us and not our members, who we will defend to the hilt. Online pharmacies have a place within the health sector and we have a significant number within our membership, but all pharmacies must behave appropriately irrespective of their business model.
“Ultimately this is about patient choice and ensuring people have access to information that enables them to make an informed choice about their healthcare. Refusing P2U’s Application, the Court said there was a serious risk that P2U might use the NPA members’ details to “pick off” individual NPA members, threatening and intimidating them rather than pursuing the NPA.
The Judge noted;
“These concerns are reinforced to a degree by P2U’s conduct to date” and said that P2U’s threatening correspondence sent to the NPA may be “actionable groundless threats” meaning they might reasonably be the subject of a counterclaim.