Covance Laboratories v J

Reference: 20 & 27 March 2003

Court: Chancery Division

Judge: Etherton J & Timothy Lloyd J

Date of judgment: 27 Mar 2003

Summary: Breach of confidence - public domain - corporate documents - whether internet publication defeated claim in confidence - injunctions

Appearances: Godwin Busuttil (Claimant) 

Instructing Solicitors: Pinsents for the Claimant


Animal rights activists obtained from an infiltrator copies of a pharmaceutical company’s confidential internal documents. These were placed on the internet. The company, having taken steps to persuade the ISPs to remove the material sought an injunction to restrain further disclosure and orders for delivery up.


Had internet publication resulted in so much information coming into the public domain that the injunctions should be refused?


Injunctions granted


In this case it was possible to obtain injunctions, and to prevent substantial dissemination of the confidential information at issue, despite the opportunities that exist to use the internet to place information in the public domain and thereby potentially defeat a claim to commercial confidentiality. Success depended heavily on the vigorous steps taken through internet experts to persuade ISPs to close down sites in various jurisdictions.