Intellectual property case update: First Conferences Services Ltd v Bracchi 2009.

An injunction was granted against a former employee of a conference company who had set up his own conference company. The injunctive relief was granted as the former employee had breached confidentiality; database rights; and had committed passing off.

Passing off

Under passing off the judge found that: “It is quite clear from the evidence that the First Defendant set up conferences to rival the Claimants in September and October of this year in the same locations and with the same topics. In doing that he sought to obtain the services of speakers who had attended the conferences held by the Claimants the year before. Further his website in advertising his Pharma Forecasting Innovation 2009 suggested that speakers who were going to address the conference were previous speakers. They cannot of course be previous speakers for the Defendants as they had never previously had conferences at which they were speakers. Most of them were previous speakers at the Claimants’ previous conferences. The suggestion by the First Defendant that he meant previous conferences where he had dealt with them (as his capacity as an employee of the Claimants) is disingenuous in my view.”

Database rights.

It was shown that the former employee had breached certain database rights which belonged to the claimant. The judge delivered his view: “The evidence of Mr Simms and Mr Butts (which was unchallenged on this aspect) shows a considerable expense and time was spent by the Claimants in generating their database. The information extracted by the First Defendant from their database is the large number of customer contacts, the sales information and the other material identified in the emails summarised in Mr Stowell’s witness statement as referred to above. This is a case of extraction and in my view a breach of article 16(1) of the Copyright and Rights in Database Regulations 1997. It is clear that the database was created using substantial investment in obtaining verifying or presenting its contents. Once again the investment is of human or technical resources as set out in the Claimants’ evidence.”

Breaches of confidentiality.

The court found that the former employee had breached confidentiality when he emailed to his personal email account a number of extracts from the claimants’ databases. Thereafter the second defendant would upload the information through a “vertical response” mailing account from which the second defendant would perform “mail shots”.

The former employee argued that the reason for him emailing the information relating to the claimants’ database was that he was making copies should the server go down.

The judge made short work of this when he stated: “It is quite plain the purpose of the downloading was to transfer the material for improper use by the First Defendant after his employment terminated.”

Consequently, an injunction was ordered in respect of the above.

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