THE impending launch of Melbourne TEC Chambers tonight has riled competing and well-established Melbourne Chambers, which claims its opening could "provoke litigation" from them.
The New Lawyer has received a copy of an email sent to Michael Whitten, the founder of Melbourne TEC Chambers and a member of the Victorian Bar who currently sits in the Chancery Chambers, from a member of Melbourne Chambers.
The email claims that the launch of Melbourne TEC Chambers is misleading, and "deceptively similar" to the name of Melbourne Chambers, a 71-strong barristers' chambers in the heart of Melbourne's legal precinct on Queen Street.
The email, sent 14 October, reads: "If it is correct as [The New Lawyer] article says, that you propose to launch 'Melbourne TEC Chambers' publicly as barristers chambers tomorrow, then it is likely to provoke litigation from Melbourne Chambers alleging misleading or deceptive conduct and/or passing off. An injunction and consequential relief will be sought."
The author of the email asks for an undertaking that Melbourne TEC Chambers would not use any name in connection with barristers chambers that is "deceptively similar" to Melbourne Chambers.
The email asks for an address for service if the directors of Melbourne TEC Chambers are unwilling to reconsider its name.
The email is answered in a letter from Whitten as secretary of Melbourne TEC Chambers, also signed by chairman Donald Charrett and treasurer Toby Shnookal, also obtained by The New Lawyer.
"We strongly refute any suggestion that Melbourne TEC Chambers has engaged in any passing off or misleading or deceptive conduct," the letter says.
Whitten, Charrett and Schnookal say they were "highly surprised" to receive the email. "Throughout the gestation period of this initiative, which has been extensive, there has never been any suggestion that there could be any confusion with Melbourne Chambers which is, of course, very well known to legal practitioners in Melbourne as a physical set of chambers."
Whitten, Charrett and Schnookal write that Melbourne TEC Chambers Inc has been set up to provide marketing to a group of Melbourne barristers specialising in TEC law who want to market their expert services in dispute resolution to solicitors internationally. They claim "both the market and the services provided are entirely different".
They add the chambers were only incorporated after a review by the Ethics Committee of the Victorian Bar and its rules.
Justice Vickery, the judge in charge of the TEC list of the Victorian Supreme Court at Melbourne, was consulted on the use of the term "TEC" in the name.
As it will be a collective of barristers, it was considered "Chambers" was the only term recognised internationally. And, the founders of the new chambers write in their letter, membership of the chambers is confined by its rules to barristers who practice in Melbourne.
A spokesperson at Melbourne TEC Chambers told The New Lawyer this morning that things have been "resolved amicably". He said: "As far as I am aware there will be no proceedings and things have been resolved."