Coco -v- A N Clark (Engineers) Ltd; ChD 1969

A claim was made for breach of confidence in respect of technical information whose value was commercial.
Held: Three elements are normally required if, apart from contract, a case of breach of confidence is to succeed. First, the information itself must have the necessary quality of confidence about it. Secondly, that information must have been imparted in circumstances importing an obligation of confidence. Megarry J said: ‘if the circumstances are such that any reasonable man standing in the shoes of the recipient of the information would have realised that upon reasonable grounds the information was being given to him in confidence, then this should suffice to impose on him the equitable obligation of confidence.’ Thirdly, there must be an unauthorised use of that information to the detriment of the party communicating it. In this case the information was found not to be of a confidential nature as it was already in the public domain. Megarry went on to say: ‘where information of commercial or industrial value is given on a business-like basis and with some avowed common object in mind, such as a joint venture . . I would regard the recipient as carrying a heavy burden if he seeks to repel a contention that he was bound by an obligation of confidence.’

Court: ChD
Date: 01-Jan-1969
Judges: Megarry J
References: [1969] 86 RPC 41,
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Filed under Information, Intellectual Property