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Anton Piller order: Wikis


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In British and British-derived legal systems, an Anton Piller order (frequently misspelt Anton Pillar order) is a court order that provides the right to search premises and seize evidence without prior warning. This prevents destruction of incriminating evidence, particularly in cases of alleged trademark, copyright or patent infringements. The order is named for the case of Anton Piller KG v Manufacturing Processes Limited [1976] Ch 55 [1] in 1976, although the first reported such order was granted by Templeman J in EMI Limited v Pandit [1975] 1 All ER 418 in 1975. They are now known as search orders in England and Wales.

Because such an order is essentially unfair to the accused party, Anton Piller orders are only issued exceptionally and according to the three-step test set out by Ormrod LJ in the Anton Piller case:

  1. There is an extremely strong prima facie case against the respondent,
  2. The damage, potential or actual, must be very serious for the applicant, and
  3. There must be clear evidence that the respondents have in their possession incriminating documents or things and that there is a real possibility that they may destroy such material before an inter partes application can be made.

In the UK, it has been reported that approximately 500 Anton Piller orders were made per year between 1975 and 1980. During the 1990s, this rate had dropped tenfold. Although the name persists in normal usage, the common law application of this order has been largely superseded by a statutory search order under the Civil Procedure Act 1997[2]. A search order under this act "does not affect any right of a person to refuse to do anything on the ground that to do so might tend to expose him or his spouse to proceedings for an offence or for the recovery of a penalty".

The late Hugh Laddie is generally credited with the "invention" of the Anton Piller order.[1] An obituary in the Telegraph stated that he later described the Anton Piller order "as a Frankenstein's monster that went far beyond his original design brief."

In some jurisdictions (for example, Hong Kong and South Africa) where there is no statutory search order, the Anton Piller Order is still often used.



"Let me say at once that no court in this land has any power to issue a search warrant to enter a man's house so as to see if there are papers or documents there which are of an incriminating nature, whether libels or infringements of copyright or anything else of the kind. No constable or bailiff can knock at the door and demand entry so as to inspect papers or documents. The householder can shut the door in his face and say, 'Get out.' That was established in the leading case of Entick v. Carrington (1765), 19 State Tr. 1029. None of us would wish to whittle down that principle in the slightest. But the order sought in this case is not a search warrant. It does not authorise the plaintiff's solicitors or anyone else to enter the defendants' premises against their will. It does not authorise the breaking down of any doors, nor the slipping in by a back door, nor getting in by an open door or window ... The plaintiffs must get the defendants' permission. But it does do this: It brings pressure on the defendants to give permission. It does more. It actually orders them to give permission – with, I suppose, the result that if they do not give permission, they are guilty of contempt of court." -- (per Lord Denning in Anton Piller KG v. Manufacturing Processes Ltd. and Others [1976] Ch. 55).

Anton Piller orders outside United Kingdom

Anton Piller orders also constitute a common ex parte procedure in intellectual property related cases in some other countries, such as Canada, France and Italy.

Anton Piller orders are known in France and Belgium as "saisie-contrefaçon" orders, translated literally "infringement seizure" orders, (or in Belgium also as "saisie-description" orders, translated literally descriptive seizure orders). The court order may only allow the description of the alleged counterfeited goods and processes, with the aim of obtaining evidence of an infringement, or may additionally allow real seizure to take place in addition to the description measures.[2] Such a seizure is enforced by a bailiff, usually accompanied by at least one expert. It can take place on the premises of the alleged infringer, but also at a trade fair for instance. Art. L. 615-5. of the French IP code reads as follows (excerpt only):

The owner of a patent application or the owner of a utility certificate application or the owner of a patent or of a utility certificate shall have the possibility of furnishing proof by any means whatsoever of the infringement of which he claims to be a victim.
He shall further be entitled, on an order given by the President of the First Instance Court of the place of the presumed infringement, to direct any bailiffs, accompanied by experts of his own choice, to proceed with a detailed description, with or without effective seizure, of the allegedly infringing articles or processes. Such order shall be provisionally enforced. It may be subjected to a security on the part of the plaintiff. In that same order, the President of the Court may authorize the bailiff to carry out any enquiry required to ascertain the origin, nature and scope of the infringement. ... " (emphasis added) [3]

Similar provisions are now required in the rest of Europe, under Article 7 of the European Union Directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, approved in April 2004.

They are also used in Australia and are available on grounds similar to that of the United Kingdom. Each superior court jurisdiction provides rules and forms for the manner in which Anton Piller orders are available. In technical modern terminology, Anton Piller orders are referred to as "'search orders'". Of greatest importance is the onus upon an applicant to establish proper grounds for obtaining such an order. This is due to the largely ex parte nature of the application. As such, an applicant must demonstrate not only that it has reasonable grounds for success in its case but must put the likely counter arguments of a respondent if that respondent were present to oppose the order being granted. This is a heavy burden faced by an applicant: its avoidance is not taken lightly by the courts and can result in penalties for its breach (see Columbia Picture Industries v Robinson [1987] Ch 38).


Canada (excluding Québec)

Recent Canadian case law has suggested that law firms acting for plaintiffs, when carrying out an Anton Piller search, employ the services of an Independent Supervising Solicitor (ISS). The ISS is to

  1. act as a neutral officer of the court
  2. explain the court’s order to the defendant
  3. supervise the search for and seizure of evidence from the defendant
  4. objectively report to the Court
  5. aid the Court and counsel for all parties in technical matters.


Anton Piller orders have been granted by the High Court in Joblin-Purser v. Jackman (1999) and Microsoft Corporation v. Brightpoint Ireland Ltd. (2001), but the issue has not come before the Supreme Court and, owing to the civil nature of the order and the strong protection given to the family home in the constitution, it currently exists in something of a grey area.

New Zealand

The Anton Piller case is the basis for rule 33.3 of the High Court rules.

This rule states that:

  • (a) an applicant seeking the order has a strong prima facie case on an accrued case of action.
  • (b) the potential or actual loss or damage to the applicant will be serious if the search order is not made
  • (c) there is sufficient evidence in relation to a respondent that -
  1. the respondent possesses relevant evidentiary material; and
  2. there is a real possibility that the respondent might destroy such material or cause it to be unavailable for use in evidence in a proceeding or anticipated proceeding before the court.[4]

Impoundment orders in United States

Orders comparable to Anton Piller orders have long been available in the United States under section 503(a) of the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C, § 503(a)), which provides for the impounding of allegedly infringing copies of works and equipment for making them.[5]

In recent years, questions have been raised about abusive use of these orders[6] and the doubtful constitutionality of the procedures used.[7] More recent decisions in the field have tended to require that that impoundment must be necessary, reasonable, and comport with the requirements of due process.[8]

Combination with Mareva injunction

An Anton Piller order is often combined with a Mareva injunction, enabling an applicant to have the respondent's assets frozen so they cannot be dissipated to frustrate judgment. This can however be disastrous for a defendant as the cumulative effect of these orders can be to destroy the whole of a business' custom, by freezing most of its assets and revealing important information to its competitors.

See also


  1. ^ See Guardian; Telegraph; UCL News ("he is credited with having invented the 'Anton Piller' (search and seizure) order and was described by Lord Denning as the 'enterprising' Mr Laddie."); Rouse ("He is widely credited as being the founding father of the Anton Piller Order."); Howard Knopf ("It was he as a young barrister at the age of 29 who developed the remedy known as the 'Anton Piller order' and won the landmark appellate ruling in a judgment written by Lord Denning confirming its historic place in legal history.").
  2. ^ Pierre Véron, Benefiting from National Procedures, IBC Conference 15th & 16th May 2000, International Patent Disputes, Paris, Multinational Actions and Tactics.
  3. ^ France: Industrial Property (Part II), Code (Consolidation), 01/07/1992 (18/12/1996), No. 92-597 (No. 96-1106) Art. L. 615-5.
  4. ^ Judicature Act 1908 No 89 (as at 01 February 2009), Public Act, Act by section, Schedule 2 High Court Rules, Part 33 Search orders, New Zealand Legislation: Acts, Consulted on May 7, 2009.
  5. ^ Section 503(a) provides: “At any time while an action under this title is pending, the court may order the impounding, on such terms as it may deem reasonable, of all copies or phonorecords claimed to have been made or used in violation of the copyright owner's exclusive rights, and of all plates, molds, matrices, masters, tapes, film negatives, or other articles by means of which such copies or phonorecords may be reproduced.” The corresponding provision of the 1909 Copyright Act (§ 25) provided for issuance of orders to “deliver up on oath for destruction all the infringing copies or devices, as well as all plates, molds, matrices, or other means for making such infringing copies as the court may order.
  6. ^ See Warner Bros. Inc. v. Dae Rim Trading, Inc., 877 F.2d 1120 (2d Cir. 1989), in which the court found that the copyright owner used “high-handed methods” and that the impoundment “action was conducted in a ‘vexatious,’ ‘oppressive,’ and ‘unreasonable’ manner.”
  7. ^ In the Dae Rim case, the district court found that the procedures used violated the U.S. Constitution, but the court of appeals found it unnecessary to reach the constitutional issue because of other defects in the impoundment, stating: “Because we agree that Warner's attorney ran roughshod over the applicable statutes and rules, we follow standard practice in not reaching the issue of constitutionality.” See also Paul S. Owens, Impoundment Procedures Under the Copyright Act: The Constitutional Infirmities, 14 Hofstra L. Rev. 211 (1985).
  8. ^ See, e.g., Paramount Pictures Corp. v. Doe, 821 F. Supp. 82, 86, 89 (E.D.N.Y. 1993).

Further reading


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


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Named after Anton Piller KG, to whom the first such order was issued in 1976.


Anton Piller order

Anton Piller orders

Anton Piller order (plural Anton Piller orders)

  1. (law) A court order allowing a plaintiff to go to someone's premises and seize documents (entry must be with that someone's permission, but if refused would be a contempt of court). Used in extreme cases when a prospective defendant might destroy documents, especially computer files, if they knew a court case was coming.


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