Confidential information

Ex-employees and IP protection

The importance of protecting your intellectual property cannot be overstated.  Various threats are posed to the confidentiality and exclusive use a company enjoys with their intellectual property.  One (1) such threat is when an employee, informed of the company’s intellectual property, ceases to be an employee of the company.  How can you protect your company’s intellectual property from this ex-employee? [Read more…]

Use of confidential information – the springboard injunction

The “springboard doctrine” is entwined with the concepts of misuse of trade secrets and confidential information and reflects one party’s misuse of another’s confidential information to produce a service or product in a timeframe or manner that would otherwise not have been achievable.  In the recent UK decision in Forse & Ors v Secarma Ltd & Ors [2019] EWCA Civ 215, the Court of Appeal of England and Wales upheld the High Court’s decision to grant an interim springboard injunction and held that injunctive relief in springboard cases “must be no greater in scope or duration than is reasonable to remove a defendant’s unfair competitive advantage”.  This article discusses the legal concept of a springboard injunction as well as the finding in the Forse case and the Australian position. [Read more…]

What is the springboard doctrine?

The ‘springboard’ doctrine refers to the benefit that is derived because of misuse of confidential information by a defendant that enables them to ‘springboard’ a new product or service to market more rapidly than if they had used their own mind.  A breach can be a contractual or equitable in nature and can also involve other causes of action such as breaches of director’s duties. [Read more…]

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…]

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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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…]

Has my software been copied? – the legal test

There is an urban myth that something can be copied and changed by 20% or so and then there is no copyright infringement.   Rightly or wrongly this is simply untrue.  In the case of IPC Global Pty Ltd v Pavetest Pty Ltd (No 3) [2017] FCA 82 (IPC Global), a former employee of the applicant copied source code and passed it to a developer.  It was subsequently alleged that in doing so, the respondent had breached a contractual obligation of confidence and had also breached the applicant’s copyright. [Read more…]

Use of a competitor’s confidential information

Many businesses try to increase market share by employing a competitor’s member of staff who may bring with them relationships and information acquired over the years.  Employees owe fiduciary duties to their employers meaning, among other things, that an employee cannot make a personal gain by using confidential information acquired in the course of their employment.  If an employee makes a personal gain by using their employer’s confidential information, the employer may be entitled to an account of profits, meaning the employee must pay the employer the amount of profit made as a result of the breach. [Read more…]

The legal relationship of agency

The importance of establishing whether a legal relationship of agency exists, and if so, to what extent, can be critical when ascertaining whether a person had authority to enter into an agreement on behalf of another person or entity.  The precise legal nature of the relationship may be important to the parties if either are attempting to enforce their rights under an agreement between them. [Read more…]

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