Neptune pledges ‘pursuit of justice’ after court win

The chief executive of aquaculture medicines producer Neptune Pharma has said the firm will begin an unrelenting "pursuit of justice" after winning a long-running court battle with rival firm, Benchmark Animal Health, and Fish Vet Group (FVG), both part of Benchmark Holdings.

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Norway's Court of Appeal this week affirmed the January 2016 decision of an Oslo District Court to dismiss claims made by Benchmark chief executive Malcolm Pye that Neptune directors Victor and Adrian Endacott stole intellectual property relating to anti-lice treatment, Salmosan. The court also upheld the district court's ruling that Neptune had, however, illegally used a Benchmark trademark by initially branding its drug Trident. Benchmark owned the Trident trademark, though had never used it.

Adrian Endacott: "We've been entirely exonerated." Photo: Private / internet

The Endacotts provided consultancy services to Pye for a period in the last decade before launching a rival Azamethiphos-based sea lice treatment, Trident Vet (now Azasure Vet) in 2014. Pye alleged that Neptune unlawfully exploited trade secrets gleaned while advising him.

NOK 16 million court costs

The Court of Appeal has ordered that Benchmark and FVG collectively pay court costs totalling NOK 16 million (£1.47m), and FVG must pay Neptune NOK 200,000 in costs.

But it appears that is not the end of the matter, with Neptune indicating that it will sue for alleged losses caused by the Benchmark / FVG court action.

In a press release, Neptune CEO Adrian Endacott said: “For 40 months, FVG and Benchmark have used the Norwegian legal system as a tool to harass me, my father and my companies. We’ve been entirely exonerated of the false allegations of theft of trade secrets made by FVG and Benchmark. Both an Oslo District Court and the Norwegian Court of Appeal have found in entirely in our favour.

'Heavy burden on my family'

“The financial damage Benchmark and FVG have caused Neptune with this false action over the last 40 months is estimated to be above NOK 200 million. As well as financial damage, there is a human side to this case. The case has placed a heavy burden on my family that no-one should have to go through. I can never forgive that.

“Unfortunately, our victory in the Court of Appeal is not the end of this situation. It signals the beginning of Neptune’s pursuit of justice. We will not rest until the individuals responsible for the false action are brought before the court and Neptune have been adequately compensated for the financial losses caused by these acts.”

Intellectual property

A Benchmark spokesperson said: Benchmark brought a claim against Neptune Pharma on the basis that they have misused Benchmarks trade secrets and acted in breach of good business practice with regards to one of Benchmarks products against sea lice.

"We are naturally disappointed that our appeal was dismissed and strongly believe in the merits of our case. We are pleased that the Court of Appeal uphold that Neptune Pharma had illegally infringed Benchmarks trademark in Norway.

"Benchmark welcomes the introduction of new products and services on the market and fair competition. The Company has a duty to support business conducted with integrity and reserves its rights to pursue any legal action it deems necessary in order to protect its intellectual property.