Covance Laboratories Inc v PETA Europe Ltd

Reference: 16/06/2005

Court: Chancery Division (Leeds District Registry)

Judge: HHJ Langan QC

Date of judgment: 17 Jun 2005

Summary: Breach of confidence - Interim injunction - s.12 HRA - Public interest - Public domain

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Appearances: Desmond Browne CBE KC - Leading Counsel (Defendant)  Jacob Dean (Defendant) 

Instructing Solicitors: Nabarro Nathanson


Undercover filming had taken place at C’s US premises. D, and groups worldwide, placed edited highlights of the footage on their websites, claiming it showed breaches of US animal welfare legislation.


Should a without notice injunction to restrain publication of the footage in the UK be continued to trial.


Dismissing the application, HHJ Langan QC described the footage which C sought to restrain as “highly disturbing”, saying the “rough manner in which animals are handled and the bleakness of the surroundings in which they are kept … at least cry out for explanation.” He was prepared to assume for the purposes of the application that the footage was confidential but ruled that the public interest defence “has an usually strong chance of success at trial” and that the public domain defence also had a good prospect of success. Applying s.12 HRA 1998 the Judge found that failure at trial was “a strong probability”. He held “the arguments against the grant of an interim injunction are cumulative and, in my judgment, overwhelming.” On a freestanding ground the Judge said he would have refused the relief sought solely on the basis that “what lies at the heart of this application is the desire of [Covance] to protect the reputation of the group of which it forms part.”


This judgment is a good example of the application of the guidelines given in s.12 HRA 1998, <A
href=”″ target=_parent>Cream Holdings v Banerjee and <A
href=”″ target=_parent>A v B plc to the question of injunctive relief in commercial confidence claims. It is notable for the strength of the Judge’s language in describing the footage which Covance sought to restrain. C had relied on concepts of privacy in photographs arising from <A
href=”″ target=_parent>Douglas v Hello! to support the claim in commercial confidence, but the Judge did not find it necessary to rule on that point.