Saturday, 29 August 2009

First Conference Services v Bracchi

A judgment of Peter Smith J, with no coded messages, in this breach of confidence case. It was heard back in July, and the judge indicated that he found for the claimants on all but one of their claims and granted the injunctions they wanted - but he didn't give his full judgment at the same time. The reason was that the defendants were planning conferences for the autumn, and if they were to be stopped it had to be done sooner rather than later.

It doesn't look like a startling judgment. The first defendant left the claimants' employment, taking with him a copy of a database of all their contacts, and set up a competing business. The case brought together claims for breach of confidence, infringement of database right and passing-off, so illustrating nicely how the same set of facts can support a range of claims. The first defendant, who represented himself (and also therefore the second defendant, his company) argued that in Vestergaard Frandsen A S v Bestnet Europe Ltd [2009] EWHC 1456 Arnold J had suggested that a defendant cannot be prevented from using formerly confidential information once it has lost its character of confidence: the judge took the view that, whatever Arnold J had said, it didn't apply in a case like this. The use of the confidential information, and the passing-off, continued right up to the moment that the defendants were ordered to stop, and it was therefore more like Crowson Fabrics Ltd v Rider & Ors [2007] EWHC 3942 (Ch) - another Peter Smith J judgment, sadly not on BAILII.

A glance through the judgment will show you that the defendant didn't really have a leg to stand on, although the claim that he had (while still working for the claimants) sabotaged one of their events by not devoting the right effort to it was rejected. The claimants won hands down on everything else, and it leaves me wondering why the defendant even bothered to go to court. He didn't throw away money on legal representation in court (perhaps hoping that he'd be treated leniently), but he will presumably be facing a substantial costs order shortly.

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