Trade Secret Escapes

In the UK, the law of confidential information has been built up over many years and existed, until very recently, in a mixture of a carefully developed body of common law and a parallel equitable obligation of confidence. The law was formalised, in legislation for the first time, by way of Directive 2016/943 (Trade Secrets Directive), which was implemented in the UK in 2018.

The case of Trailfinders Ltd v Travel Counsellors Ltd and others [2020] EWHC 591 was the first time the Trade Secrets Directive was considered by an English judge, although the judgment relied heavily on the established English case law in this area.

The case involved a classic scenario of employees leaving their employer and setting up a competing business - a scenario which previous case law has addressed many times. Specifically, Trailfinders' former employees set up a competing Travel Counsellors Ltd ("TCL") franchise. TCL did not supply new franchisees with potential customers- they were expected to bring their own and Trailfinders' former employees did just that.

The former employees (namely Mr La Gette and Mr Bishop) appropriated the following information:

Information from Viewtrail, a computer system used by Trailfinders. Mr La Gette identified 30 occasions upon which he had accessed Viewtrail, after he had left Trailfinders' employment, obtaining information in relation to 10 clients. Mr La Gette solicited the business of all those clients after he had left Trailfinders' employment and eight of them had booked trips with Mr La Gette since he started work with TCL. Mr Bishop admitted that he had accessed the system on 63 occasions concerning 32 clients' details. About six months before Mr Bishop left Trailfinders he started to assemble what came to be referred to as his 'contact book'. This contained the names, contact details and other information about clients he had dealt with. Mr La Gette hand copied information from Trailfinders' Superfacts software system relating to information about customers. HHJ Hacon had to decide what, if any, confidential information was taken from Trailfinders by its former employees. He used Goulding J's guidance in Faccenda Chicken Ltd v Fowler [1985] which categorised the different types of information that an employee would have access to in the course of his or her employment, and whether an employee would be in a...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT