Claimant’s failure to demonstrate an ongoing advantage results in court’s refusal of springboard injunction

Lauren Bundy

In Aquinas Education Ltd v (1) Dorian Miller (2) Max Pembleton (3) Charles Anthony Gatter (4) Link3 Recruitment Ltd [2018] EWHC 404 (QB), the court refused to award the claimant a springboard injunction citing that the claimant was unable to establish that the defendants had a continuing benefit from unlawfully obtained information.

The claimant was a recruitment company specialising in the education sector. Two of the defendants (D1 and D2) had been employed by the claimant. Their employment contracts prohibited them from disclosing any confidential information which came to their attention during their employment and stated that any materials created or acquired during the course of their employment belonged to the claimant. D1 and D2 terminated their employment with the claimant and subsequently set up a competing business (a venture devised whilst working for the claimant) with the third defendant. The competing business was incorporated as the fourth defendant.

Before terminating his employment with the claimant D1 obtained a list of contact details of teachers and schools. Consequently the claimant was granted an interim order blocking D1 and D2 from: (1) doing business with any of the teachers or schools that they had come into contact with as a result of their employment with the claimant (including those identified in the list) and (2) using certain confidential information until trial/further order.

When deciding whether to exercise its discretion to grant a springboard injunction on an interim application the court should consider the likely outcome at trial on the balance of probabilities, instead of following the principles in American Cyanamid. It was more likely than not that the claimant would prove at trial that the information obtained by D1 would be caught by the relevant term of his employment contract and that D1 and D2 tried to direct potential business to D4 whilst still employed by the claimant.

Taking into account that the interim order barred the defendants from using the confidential information obtained from the claimant, the court decided that the advantage obtained by the defendants due to their unlawful acts was minimal. The defendants had been effectively restrained by the terms of the interim order for a period of six weeks, and any head start they had wrongfully obtained had gone. The court therefore declined to order a springboard injunction as the claimant had not demonstrated any springboard ongoing advantage.

Aquinas Education Ltd v Miller & Ors [2018] EWHC 404 (QB) (02 March 2018)

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