Know-how versus confidential information

In an article entitled “is your confidential information really confidential” we discussed what is and isn’t confidential information and how this term is nearly always misused.  This article discusses a category of confidential information known as “know-how” and what rights employers have over it. [Read more…]

Copyright, code libraries and ownership

In Australia, copyright automatically vests in certain types of literary works, including computer programs and artistic works, upon their creation.  The general rule is that the owner of copyright in a literary or artistic work is the author of that work.[1]  An exception to this rule arises if the work is made by an employee pursuant to the terms of their employment.  In this case, the employer owns the copyright subsisting in the employee-generated work.  However, the distinction of whether an employee has created the work pursuant to the terms of employment, is not always clear.  This issue was considered in the case of Redrock Holdings Pty Ltd and Hotline Communications Ltd v Hinkley [2001] VSC 91 (Redrock). [Read more…]

e-Signatures – legally binding on companies?

The rise of e-signing software such as docuSign (e-signature) has become commonplace for the execution of contracts electronically.  Each state of Australia and the Commonwealth has its own equivalent to the Electronic Transactions Act 2001 (Qld) (ETA).  The use of E-signatures has streamlined the contract execution process, however a recent case in the Supreme Court of South Australia has highlighted their vulnerability.  The decision of Stanley J in Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited v Kenneth Ross Pickard [2019] SASC 123 (Adelaide Bank) is illustrative of this. [Read more…]

Proposed standards for online safety

In December 2019, the Australian Government released a discussion paper on a proposed “Online Safety Act” (Proposal) for consultation.  The Proposal is intended to combine and coordinate the existing framework into a single piece of legislation, and provide an update in accordance with the changes in the digital landscape.  The Proposal will encourage businesses trading online to take more responsibility for material on their platforms. [Read more…]

Compilations from the public domain – confidential or not?

In the case of Ezystay Systems Pty Ltd v Link 2 Pty Ltd [2014] NSWSC 180 (Ezystay) it was held that the plaintiff’s business manuals were confidential despite having been compiled from the documents in “public domain”.  On Appeal, the Court had to re-visit the test for confidential information to determine whether or not the respondents’ software, business manuals and other documents collated from the public domain were in fact capable of being protected as confidential information.

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Shareholder oppression – valuation issues

Shareholder oppression or minority shareholder oppression can occur when the majority (shareholder(s)) in an entity misuse their majority to oppress or control the minority shareholders.  There are is not a limited number or combination of activities which the majority may engage in to oppress the minority, sometimes referred to as “sharp practice” or “board room tactics”, the possibilities are almost infinite. [Read more…]

Tort of conspiracy & confidential information

The tort of conspiracy has been well established in Australia by the High Court, however it is a fairly uncommon cause of action.  The High Court has endorsed some early UK decisions with respect to damage, including the cases of Mogul Steamship Co v McGregor Gow & Co [1892] and Sorrel v Smith [1925] AC 700.  [Read more…]

Injunctions for breach of confidence

The recent Federal Court case of Howden Australia Pty Ltd v Minetek Pty Ltd [2019] FCA 981 highlights some of the challenges faced by applicants when attempting to establish that a breach of confidential information has taken place, and the steps required to obtain an interim injunction prior to the ultimate determination of a matter. [Read more…]

Computer-implemented inventions and patentability

The question of patentability of so called “computer-implemented” inventions has been the subject of legal debate in Australia for a number of years.  The September 2018 of the Full Court of the Federal Court in  Encompass Corporation Pty Ltd v Infotrack Pty Ltd [2019] FCAFC 161 was long anticipated by intellectual property lawyers and patent attorneys alike, who were eager to see a more substantial analysis about the patentability of computer-implemented inventions.  However, the expanded five-judge bench of the Full Federal Court expressly declined to provide this guidance because they did not believe the case raised any significant question of principle in this regard, and focussed  on ‘manner of manufacture’ as a ground for revocation. [Read more…]

Risks of making financial forecasts

When a business is seeking to raise capital or advertise as being for sale financial forecasts are often made in a way so as to appeal to the target audience – investors or potential buyers.  In some cases however, the forecasts made do not translate into reality giving rise to potential legal consequences.  As forecasts are indicators often relied used by investors to make decisions on whether or not to invest, statements that are incorrect may amount to misleading and deceptive conduct under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) (being Schedule 2 to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth)) and have potentially serious legal consequences. [Read more…]

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