Francis Taylor Building

Francis Taylor Building received its name after Sir Francis Taylor QC, Lord Maenen, a bencher of the Inner Temple. This building was also re-designed after the war by the English architect Sir Edward Maufe. Since the late 1950s, the place was home to an important patent set, which had been previously located at 5 Fig Tree Court and became the leading chambers in the field in the 1980s. Headed by Thomas Anthony Blanco White, Francis Taylor Building was a key place in the development of patent practice, having raised skilful barristers, such as Robin Jacob and Hugh Laddie, who eventually became judges. In the mid-1990s, the chambers moved to 8 New Square in Lincoln’s Inn.


Middle Temple


Basil Drewe, Kenneth Johnston, Robert Lochner, TA Blanco White, Anthony Walton, Julian Jeffs, Robin Jacob, Hugh Laddie, Mary Vitoria, Peter Prescott


Charles White; Fred Watts; Sidney Leigh; John Call and Tony Liddon.

"Francis Taylor Building in the early 1980s" by Deborah Fosbrook

Facilitator: Then you applied to Francis Taylor Building?
Deborah Fosbrook: Yes, I decided that well – I was either going to go and study with the best. I don’t like criminal law, I don’t like family law, I was not interested in doing legal aid cases. I always wanted to do something that was creative. I see aspects of Intellectual Property law and Copyright as very creative, because it’s all about products, it’s all about design, it’s all about understanding, use of things and how things were exploited. So that’s what I wanted to do, so I realised that of course Hugh Laddie was one of the best. He was the only one I wrote to, I didn’t write loads of letters. I wrote one letter and I basically explained why I had an interest, what I wanted to do, that I didn’t have a fantastic academic record. That I understood that I wouldn’t get taken on in chambers, but if he could have me there for six months I would be over the moon. He said come over for an interview and he said yes and start in September.
Facilitator: Do you remember the interview?
Deborah Fosbrook: Not a great deal, I just remember being quite overwhelmed by the chambers because you get up the stairs and you get into chambers and everybody was very smart and professional looking. It was a very serious, busy chambers, and his room was actually quite small, he had a smart small room. So he was sitting behind his big desk in his relatively small room. So there was no possibility of having another desk in that room, so I would have to share his desk and sit the other side of it, or be sent off to the library or another room in chambers to work. He was just very friendly, he didn’t ask me legal questions, he just wanted to know why I wanted to do it and what did I know about any of it. Did I understand any of it, did I understand any of the law? I was just very honest with him, that I actually had never studied that aspect of the law. But he appreciated that I was interested in those topics like copyright, contract and company law.
Facilitator: Coming back to Francis Taylor Building, who was there when you arrived and how the building was? I mean now that is no longer where they are.
Deborah Fosbrook: All the names were on a board outside in cream – or black on cream – and the chambers is no longer there. You’d go up to the first floor and basically they occupied the whole of the first floor. I don’t remember them occupying any of the other floors but I think they did after I left, expand. It was really cramped, everybody was in quite small rooms, there was a big photocopier out in the clerk’s room, it was going constantly. Although the chambers didn’t look plush, it was very well presented in terms of you’d go through the door and on the right hand side would be the clerk’s room where John and the other clerks would be. Michael Fysh was just next to further along from Hugh Laddie’s room. People were stuck in their rooms all day having conferences, wall to wall conferences. Say one’s out of the door and another one is coming in. Especially Mary Vitoria as she didn’t go to court very often, she did a lot of conference based advice and reports and pleadings.
Facilitator: Opinions?
Deborah Fosbrook: Opinions, yes and as a pupil you are not really part of the conversation in terms of the social aspects of chambers. We wouldn’t get invited to such events.
Facilitator: Blanco was there? You were saying that Blanco…
Deborah Fosbrook: Yes, Blanco White QC would float around, I think I saw him a couple of times in court. He was always quite a flamboyant character and he’d charge into chambers sometimes when he wasn’t on duty in a leather suit which seemed a bit bizarre. It wasn’t really him that organised the management of the chambers. He was a figurehead of the chambers. The organisation of the chambers was very much done by John Call and by the group of barristers in chambers telling John Call what is they wanted done.
Facilitator: What was the role of the clerk?
Deborah Fosbrook: Well…
Facilitator: Distributing work?
Deborah Fosbrook: No, it was not really so much distributing – John Call did far more than just an ordinary clerk, because he was dealing with quite senior people in industry. If you could think who he was dealing with, first of all he was dealing with some of the leading solicitors. The clients were major manufacturers, major confectionary companies, you’re dealing with senior management and executives. So he was doing far more than just clerking, in terms of taking a call, getting a brief in; it was far more sophisticated than that because he was booking in slots of time for people; he was managing caseloads because the chambers didn’t have the problem of most chambers such as we haven’t got enough work for everybody this week. It’s like they had got so much work, they were constantly trying to not over burden everybody. The amount of work that they got through was, you realize when you interviewed Robin Jacob, phenomenal.
Facilitator: It was a boom for him – it was a boom of cases.
Deborah Fosbrook: Yes – no but it wasn’t just a boom of cases. For instance, Hugh Laddie and Mary Vitoria did a lot of confectionary, cases, a lot of companies who were understanding that they had to protect their copyright, that they had to protect their trade marks. There was far greater awareness about product design; what can we do about this and how best to develop it. People were very active in terms of chasing pirates, they really felt as if – if somebody was ripping off their design that they were going to do something about it or their product. There was a heightened motivation by companies to pursue proceedings and money wasn’t the issue. I mean you have to realise at that point when I was in those chambers, VHS it only just come out so there was a lot of film piracy, VHS was a new technology at that point.
Facilitator: Music piracy as well…
Deborah Fosbrook: Yes, that’s right. There wasn’t downloads and digital musical.
Facilitator: But tapes…
Deborah Fosbrook: …but there were tapes, that’s right, and so there’d be a lot of routine cases that would come in whereas someone alleged that a tape had been pirated. An opinion would be given on what do to about it and whether there was sufficient evidence or what evidence to gather. And those sort of cases, were just sort of routinely got through the evidence done, the pleadings done and an injunction applied for if necessary.
Facilitator: So you were saying it was Michael Fysh, Mary Vitoria, Robin Jacob…
Deborah Fosbrook: Robin Jacob, yes and also Peter Prescott. I didn’t have very much to do with Peter Prescott and Michael Fysh. They wouldn’t even remember who I was. I had a very small little world that I was in, and when I was in chambers, I was with Hugh Laddie unless he told me to go off and do some research. I was either sitting and listening on a conference or I was doing research. I’m not going to look it up on an iPad or a laptop. I’ve got to go to the library, I’ve got to read the Modern Law of Copyright, I’ve got to go and look at the statutes.
Facilitator: Was it at a time that they were writing the Modern Law of Copyright?
Deborah Fosbrook: No they had already written it and it had come out but it was – it was a huge revolution, the way that they had written that book.
Facilitator: Copinger?
Deborah Fosbrook: It’s completely different style from Copinger Skone James. I would look at both the books because that’s what I would get told to do. The book (The Modern Law of Copyright) was considered very progressive and the scope of what they considered to be within the law or in terms of Intellectual Property and Patents was wider.
Facilitator: And think about – I think The Modern Law of Copyright is much more open to questions.
Deborah Fosbrook: Yes, that’s right. And they (Hugh Laddie, Mary Vitoria and Peter Prescott) were willing to make statements about areas and say well this is a grey area. Well, this is unresolved or this might go this direction but we don’t know yet. They all had an ability; they were all what I call ‘creative lawyers’. They didn’t place limitations on themselves in terms of analyzing something. Mary Vitoria and Hugh Laddie were very skillful. Hugh Laddie and Mary Vitoria taught me [that] it’s not only about what’s been copied, it’s also about mistakes that have been copied. There were lots of little techniques that they used out of which that one thing would catch somebody. It might be a typo and a word that’s been repeated somewhere else and there might be one little thing that you’ll find, but that is sufficient evidence to put a hook on it.
Facilitator: And Mark Platts?
Deborah Fosbrook: Mark Platts-Mills I really didn’t have anything to do with him. I think he’d already been taken on, that’s my understanding of it. I can’t even remember having a single conversation with him. I didn’t socialise in a social sense with the people in chambers, because if you weren’t a tenant and you were a pupil – I worked, I would be in there nine o’ clock and I’d still be working at six o’ clock. There wasn’t time to sit down and have a little chat about my life and there was not that sort of exchange.
Facilitator: What type of work was, what you call ‘research’ was finding cases, finding…
Deborah Fosbrook: All sorts of things, I mean because Hugh Laddie was very good at helping. First of all, you have to understand that (as a pupil) I didn’t understand any of the statutes; I didn’t understand how to draft any of the statement of claims or defences, I understood nothing about any of it, in terms of that world because it was very specific in terms of what you put in, why you put information and what that statement is in for. I was learning a completely new skill. Hugh Laddie and Mary Vitoria would have the conference with the client. Obviously Hugh Laddie was preparing himself for the conference with all the detail of it. There would often be more than one conference, because the first one would be a preliminary thing and then it would be identifying what evidence needs to come and from that, afterwards, I would be given a batch of papers, and I would go away and look at the statute and cases. Sometimes Hugh Laddie wanted me to have a go, drafting whatever needed to be drafted whether it was an affidavit or statement of claim or a defence. But there was a pro rata format document which was about an inch and a half thick, I think, that they had created with pro forma pleadings, so that helped. I would be sent away to go and read a House of Lords or Court of Appeal case on a topic and look at that section of the statute. It was about me being educated to understand the length and breadth of whatever the topic was. But more often than not, when he was advising, Hugh Laddie or Mary Vitoria, if they were advising somebody, there would be more than one issue. There might be a trade mark issue, there might be a packaging issue, it was understanding…even with films, there would be layers of issues.
Facilitator: Do you remember any pattern of – you were saying that fashion industry was or may have been coming aware – and I think Robin Jacob did, before you arrived a lot of pharmaceuticals, do you remember any pattern…
Deborah Fosbrook: I never did any pharmaceutical cases. With Hugh Laddie I did some engineering cases. I wasn’t his junior but I sat through the trial and it was very detailed and technical because it was all about engineering parts and design drawings.
Facilitator: Industrial copyright, what they called ‘industrial copyright’.
Deborah Fosbrook: When you say a patent issue sometimes it would be a patent issue but there would be a copyright issue as well, there would be the actual tool pieces. There would be more than one issue, that’s what I’m trying to explain to you. You wouldn’t just say ‘we got a patent case’, very often they weren’t just arguing about — I mean very often they weren’t just arguing about a patent application or – get trying to get something rejected. It was more often about something had being ‘copied’ — and then someone was trying to register something – and then it was a question of well proving that they never had it originally in the first place. It would be a whole combination of arguments, not just one argument.
Facilitator: In terms of interlocutory – a lot of interlocutory…
Deborah Fosbrook: Loads of interlocutory applications.It would be routine to go over the Royal Courts of Justice and Hugh Laddie far more than Mary Vitoria. People would come to him because of his track record, because of his notoriety, creating the Anton Piller order. It wasn’t difficult to get them – as long as you provided the evidence. Hugh Laddie would say to the client and Mary Vitoria as well: we need to buy one pirate copy, ‘go and buy a pirate copy to prove that they are selling it – and buy one pirate copy in each of the formats’. You’d almost have to spell it out for the people as to what evidence they have to provide. Then – they would make the application; it wasn’t difficult to get an interlocutory application through, but – where there was often an issue was when it wasn’t about the application, but the evidence. Judges were very particular that if you didn’t have the evidence, it wasn’t going to happen.