Fleet Street Reports
A specialist discipline needed a specialist set of law reports. Although the Report of Patent Cases (RPC) was the most authoritative source for patent, design and trade mark cases, the early 1960s also saw the emergence of the Fleet Street Reports (previously named Fleet Street Patent Law Reports). This series was founded and first edited by Raph Lunzer, a barrister from 3 Pump Court who had family connections with the Gestetner company. These reports were firstly foolscap-sized and produced in roneoed form. The reason why they became important for the discipline was the speed with which they were published. While it took between six to nine months for the RPC to be published, the FSR took advantage of this time lag and reported the cases much earlier, enabling practitioners and academics to develop their commentaries and arguments as the law evolved. After Lunzer, both the RPC and FSR were edited consecutively by Peter Hayward, Michael Fysh QC and Mary Vitoria QC. Their influence in shaping the discipline of ‘intellectual property’ should not be underestimated. Their coverage was expanded both spatially and temporally. Firstly, they began to include copyright cases. Secondly, they started to include not only current cases but also earlier cases that for whatever reason had never been reported.
Facilitator: Where you involved in the RPC ?
Carol Tullo: Yes. We acquired that as well, didn’t we. Yes, Reports of Patents cases and I was–
Facilitator: That was from Crown Copyright –
Carol Tullo: It was Crown Copyright in the sense that there was an official element. In government that doesn’t happen so much now because we are very much part of the open data world and judges now would accept that their judgments and their cases are handed down and they are open for all to access. Of course there is the official judgment but in those days there were lots of unreported cases and lots of very important judicial decisions. The ones covered by the standard law cases that I certainly looked at and studied when I was a law student and but we also recognized that there were new areas of case law and covering cases in areas like Housing Law, and Tribunal cases, were a gap and we actually had a bit of a design theme for them.
Report of Patent cases (RPC) had started because I think the courts themselves required or wanted to find a way of getting their judgments published and the way they could do it in those days and going back decades was by appointing the shorthand writers at the time and giving them a licence to produce them.
But they were under contract to and the Crown – to government, to the Judges and so that’s why they were Crown Copyright. But it got to a stage where – for lots of governments the – “Why don’t you let the experts do it?” and so they decided that there had to be a better way of doing it and various publishers bid for it. Sweet & Maxwell, I believed took that, didn’t it? Yes. Is it still produced?
Facilitator: Yeah. I – what I don’t if it is – there was another set of Law reports called Fleet Streets Report?
Carol Tullo: Fleet Street Reports. Yes. We definitely acquired those.
Facilitator: And that was–
Carol Tullo: Michael Fysh, yes.
Facilitator: And Michael Fysh and I think then Mary Vitoria as well, more recently.
Carol Tullo: Yes. But again–
Facilitator: Chris Rycroft, I think he was more involved in that. So he may have been when or Chris may have taken over on the Fleet Street Reports with Michael Fysh?
Carol Tullo: Oh, Michael Fysh – Chris was the Managing Editor for Intellectual Property in the Commercial team. So he would have been very involved in all of that, in that work and I know that Chris Rycroft certainly was the day to day contact point on the ESC Journals and also for ambition to use that format to look at other commercial areas and develop that product.
Facilitator: Weren’t you also involved in the law reports?
Chris Rycroft: Yes, so this is going back a step. So when I first arrived at Sweet & Maxwell, almost as soon as I arrived, it became one of my responsibilities to work on The Fleet Street Reports, but as indicated on this photocopy that you’d given me it was European Law Centre at Sweet & Maxwell. So there is a chap called Neville March Hunnings who you should interview, if he can be tracked down, to find out from him about the history of the European Law Centre.
By the time I arrived at Sweet & Maxwell it was well established within the Sweet & Maxwell fold. So Michael Fysh QC was the editor of Fleet Street Reports, but also editor of the reports on patent cases. At that stage the RPCs [Reports of Patent Cases] were published by the Patent Office. They were HMSO or whatever, government published. They did it themselves and they had this extraordinary stream of pamphlet-like reports coming out almost case by case, whereas Fleet Street Reports was a bit more like a traditional published set of reports in that you’d have collected together in each issue a number of different cases.
It was always at that stage a slightly awkward relationship in that you had the single editor making the editorial decisions about which cases went into which series of reports. I think the way Michael used to do it, or used to explain it, was there was some cases that just blindingly obviously had to go into the RPCs. They were the senior official series of record and if it was a major case, particularly on patents, trademarks and designs, that had to go in the RPCs. I think even by this stage, there was a policy that you would try to avoid duplication. So if it went in the RPCs, it didn’t go in the Fleet Street Reports. What that meant was that there was a danger of the Fleet Street Reports being regarded as a poor relation. It would never have had the same number of subscribers as RPCs.
Nevertheless, I think what Michael was doing, and what we encouraged him to do, was quite canny, in that one was looking for interesting procedural cases which RPCs wouldn’t necessarily cover, quite a lot of the more interesting sort of copyright media cases that RPCs might not have covered. Software stuff had started coming through, which was not necessarily RPCs traditional territory, but was becoming increasingly interesting and important, particularly with the advent of European directives and so on. So actually Fleet Street Reports began to carve out a bit of a niche for itself.
While I was there, we gave it a rebrand so that it looked more like a Sweet & Maxwell series of law reports, it looked a bit smarter. While I was there we had the handover from Michael Fysh as editor to Mary Vitoria. Mary took on the RPCs at the same time. So she still had that business of riding two horses in parallel. The way that were produced it was very much Michael and then Mary who ran their own teams of reporters, who were usually pupil barristers and junior barristers in their sets and in various other sets. Cases would be parcelled out to them to do the head notes, and then they’d come to me.
I think I was the first and last editor ever to really seriously edit Fleet Street Reports in-house. I used to read them very carefully and pick up quite lot of small errors and corrections and things which we used to put right. There were one or two incidents where the headnoter had got something slightly wrong, such as the name of the barrister. There was some kerfuffle about whether we had reported, and shouldn’t have, a judgment that had been given in Chambers, and so one had to look into the legality of publishing a report of a judgment that had been given in Chambers. I’m not sure if that was ever properly sorted out. That problem kind of went away. .
Chris Rycroft: The origins of the Fleet Street Reports were that a chap called Raph Lunzer thought that the RPCs were providing a lousy service because they were so slow. And so the original Fleet Street Reports were like this kind of roneoed photocopy kind of stuff that could be printed really quickly, and the whole point was that it was quicker than RPC’s and it was therefore a rival . So at that time one would have certainly been reporting the same cases, but faster. How it grew from that into the more traditional reports where the same editor was doing both series is a bit of history.
When Michael Fysh retired, Neville March Hunnings did a little retrospective saying thank you to Michael and also giving the history of the Fleet Street Reports. I think you should look it up.
Chris Rycroft: Raph Lunzer was someone who I later had further dealings with. He was at the EPO, and he was responsible for translating Singer on the European Patent Convention which was the classic German language commentary. But there had never been an English language equivalent. And so when Raph Lunzer moved to the EPO he educated himself on the whole system and on the law, and decided he was going to translate it. We got offered the English translation, and we published that as the English language version of Singer on the European Patent Convention. It did very well, but I think it was a one edition wonder. Sadly, Raph Lunzer died and I don’t think anyone ever took it on to do any further editions. We had also published Gerald Patterson’s European Patent System book. So that was the one that carried on.
Facilitator: Do you have any memories of Raph Lunzer?
Chris Rycroft: Well, I did meet him, but no, not strong recollections. My impression was that he was fairly elderly by that time. I met him in Munich, but I may be misremembering that. I think he might have moved back to the UK.
I’ll tell you one thing I was going to tell you about, which may be of interest. Alongside the Fleet Street Reports and reports on patent cases, there was something called the Intellectual Property law Citator. Michael Fysh was responsible for it but there was a chap called Robert Wilson-Thomas, I think his name was, who did the work on creating it. It played a very important at the time because this was before the days of digital databases of cases. It was also before the days when Sweet & Maxwell really got on top of the whole question of tracking when cases were cited, approved, or disapproved.
Nowadays, it’s very easy to use the Westlaw case analysis section to find out about a particular case and what its subsequent history is. In those days, it just wasn’t. It was incredibly difficult you’d have to plough through all of the Fleet Street Reports. What the citator did was provide a shortcut. I think for those people who knew about it, it was a brilliant thing in that it was simply a kind of index of everything that had ever been in the RPCs and FSRs. But as well as doing that, it then did it by subject, so you could look up any given topic. It would quite cleverly arrange a series of subject headings and sub headings. So you could look up the most pertinent cases on any give topic, and it’d take you straight to what you needed in terms of the leading cases, or the cases that had been approved.
Fleet Street Reports