High Court Aids Ship Designer in 'Blatant' Breach of Confidentiality Case

Trade secrets are the lifeblood of many businesses and the law will provide powerful assistance in protecting them. That was certainly so in the case of a ship design company whose confidential information was blatantly misused by a prospective client.

The company had, after a competitive process, been selected to design a specialist vessel that the client was planning to build. In conjunction with the client, the company carried out high-quality design work over many months. In breach of their agreement, the client made critical design documents prepared by the company available to a rival ship designer. The client ultimately obtained a vessel built by the other designer with the benefit of the company's design, but at a significantly lower cost.

Following a trial, the High Court upheld the company's claims against the client in respect of breach of contract, misuse of confidential information and unlawful means conspiracy. The client had sought permission to appeal against aspects of the Court's ruling but, subject to that, the amount of compensation due to the company, including a claim for exemplary damages, would be assessed by the Court if not agreed.

After a further hearing, the Court took the rare step of making a publicity order pursuant to the Trade Secrets (Enforcement, etc.) Regulations 2018. The client was required to post a notice on its website, for six months, publicising the fact that it had misused the company's confidential information in relation to the design of the vessel that it ultimately obtained. The notice would provide links to the Court's judgments in the case.