Trade Secrets in UK Law

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Leading Cases
  • OBG Ltd and another v Allan and Others
    • House of Lords
    • 02 May 2007

    To be liable for inducing breach of contract, you must know that you are inducing a breach of contract. It is not enough that you know that you are procuring an act which, as a matter of law or construction of the contract, is a breach. Nor does it matter that you ought reasonably to have done so. He took the information in the honest belief that the employee would not be in breach of contract.

  • Littlewoods Organisation Ltd v Harris
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 03 Ago 1977

    The reason is because it is so difficult to draw the line between information which is confidential and information which is not: and it is very difficult to prove a breach when the information is of such a character that a servant can carry it away in his head. The difficulties are such that the only practicable solution is to take a covenant from the servant by which he is not to go to work for a rival in trade. Such a covenant may well be hold to be reasonable if limited to a short period.

  • Attorney General v Guardian Newspapers Ltd and Others (No. 2)
    • House of Lords
    • 13 Oct 1988

    I start with the broad general principle (which I do not intend in any way to be definitive) that a duty of confidence arises when confidential information comes to the knowledge of a person (the confidant) in circumstances where he has notice, or is held to have agreed, that the information is confidential, with the effect that it would be just in all the circumstances that he should be precluded from disclosing the information to others.

    But it is well settled that a duty of confidence may arise in equity independently of such cases; and I have expressed the circumstances in which the duty arises in broad terms, not merely to embrace those cases where a third party receives information from a person who is under a duty of confidence in respect of it, knowing that it has been disclosed by that person to him in breach of his duty of confidence, but also to include certain situations, beloved of law teachers - where an obviously confidential document is wafted by an electric fan out of a window into a crowded street, or when an obviously confidential document, such as a private diary, is dropped in a public place, and is then picked up by a passer-by.

  • Vestergaard Frandsen A/S (now called MVF 3 ApS) and Others v Bestnet Europe Ltd and Others
    • Supreme Court
    • 22 May 2013

    As Lord Sumption pointed out in argument, in order for a defendant to be party to a common design, she must share with the other party, or parties, to the design, each of the features of the design which make it wrongful. If, and only if, all those features are shared, the fact that some parties to the common design did only some of the relevant acts, while others did only some other relevant acts, will not stop them all from being jointly liable.

  • Lansing Linde Ltd v Kerr
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 10 Oct 1990

    Mr. Poulton suggested that a trade secret is information which, if disclosed to a competitor, would be liable to cause real (or significant) harm to the owner of the secret. I would add first, that it must be information used in a trade or business, and secondly that the owner must limit the dissemination of it or at least not encourage or permit widespread publication.

  • Vestergaard Frandsen A/S and Others v Bestnet Europe Ltd and Others
    • Chancery Division
    • 26 Jun 2009

    By contrast, I consider that the manufacture and sale of mosquito nets made in accordance with the formulation submitted by Bestnet for WHOPES II evaluation does not amount to misuse of VF's trade secrets, although that formulation derived from such misuse. This is partly because it was a [ REDACTED] formulation, which is further away from VF's recipes.

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