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Supreme Court backs former employee in trade secrets case

The Court of Appeal was right to find that a former employee of mosquito net maker Vestergaard was not liable for breach of confidential information, the UK Supreme Court has ruled

In a unanimous decision, the five Supreme Court judges found that Trine Sig was not liable as she did not learn of any relevant trade secrets while employed by Vestergaard, and was not aware that such secrets were being used by an employee of her company.

Writing the Court’s judgment, Lord Neuberger said that the law must maintain a balance between protecting trade secrets and not unreasonably inhibiting competition in the marketplace. He said that IP protection is vital to economic prosperity but added: “On the other hand, the law should not discourage former employees from benefitting society and advancing themselves by imposing unfair potential difficulties on their honest attempts to compete with their former employers.”

The dispute between these two parties arose from a complex trade secrets case, in which the Court of Appeal had upheld a ruling that Vestergaard’s trade secrets were used by competitor Bestnet Europe.

Vestergaard was represented by barristers Mark Platt-Mills QC and Thomas Moody-Stuart and law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse while the respondents were represented by Alastair Wilson QC and George Hamer and law firm McGuire Woods London.

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