Supreme Court says accessory liability for strict liability torts requires knowledge

The Supreme Court today (15 May 2024) handed down judgment in Lifestyle Equities v Ahmed [2024] UKSC 17 – https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2021-0147-0150-judgment.pdf

The judgment holds that accessory liability for a tort can only arise if the accessory knows the essential facts which make the act unlawful, even for strict liability torts such as registered trade mark infringement or patent infringement.
The judgment does not explore the full extent of those “essential facts”, but for registered trade mark infringement under s.10(2), an alleged accessory must at least know of the registration alleged to be infringed, and that a sign whose use they procure (etc) gives rise to a likelihood of confusion. Under s.10(3), they must at least know that there is a relevant injury to the mark with a reputation.
This decision is likely to surprise many practitioners. It reverses an approach that has been orthodox in courts up to and including the Court of Appeal for several decades, and concludes that obiter statements in several judgments of the House of Lords and Supreme Court apparently consistent with that hitherto orthodox approach were overly broad, wrong and/or misinterpreted. It will no doubt attract extensive commentary and have ramifications in ongoing and future litigation that explores its effects.
In another aspect of the judgment, the court held (unsurprisingly) that any person who is liable for trade mark infringement can only be made to account for profits they themselves received.
Tom St Quintin appeared (with Rory Brown of 9 Stone Buildings) for the Lifestyle parties.