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26 June 2013 0 Comments
Posted in Employment, Opinion

Breach of confidentiality

Author headshot image Posted by , Partner

The Supreme Court has given judgement in the case of Vestergaard Frandsen v Bestnet Europe Limited on the subject of breach of confidentiality. Mrs Sig worked for the Claimant. She left, along with two other employees, to form another company, the product design of which was based on confidential information obtained by one of the other employees, Dr Skovmand, from the Claimant. Mrs Sig was unaware of this until the commencement of proceedings. The Supreme Court considered two issues, that of contract, and that of common design.

In respect of the contract it held that the express confidentiality term in Mrs Sig’s contract did not apply because it dealt with knowledge which she had gained during her employment and not knowledge gained by others. Nor was it appropriate to imply a term to make her liable for assisting in the misuse of confidential information when she was unaware, either of the information itself, or that such a breach had occurred. The Supreme Court also considered the issue of common design, where individuals could be liable for a breach of confidence through a common design. The third employee involved, Mr Larsen, was held liable on that basis because he knew that Dr Skovmand was misusing confidential information and assisted him in doing so. However since Mrs Sig did not know, she was not culpable of common design because such involvement requires knowledge that confidential information is being misused and she had no idea this was happening.

This legal update is provided for general information purposes only and should not be applied to specific circumstances without prior consultation with us.

For further details on any of the issues covered in this update please contact Gemma Ospedale, Partner in Employment on 020 7583 2222.


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