G D Searle and Co Ltd v Celltech Ltd: CA 1982

The court was asked as to an employee’s covenant now said to be in restraint of trade.
Held: In disputes between employers and ex-employees courts will usually seek to protect the rights of employees to advance their chosen trade and profession, to promote their own private interests by changing their employment and also to promote the public interest by better use of his personal aptitudes, experience and skill.
Cumming-Bruce LJ said: ‘The court seeks to uphold the obligation of free contracting parties to a contract of service to honour their contractual obligations. On the other hand, the court seeks to respect the rights of servants to advance in their chosen trade and profession, and in this connection to promote their own private interest by changing their employment, and also to promote the public interest by better use of the servants’ personal aptitudes, experience and skill . . The picture that emerges is the market for labour in operation for the benefit of the employees and of the public, but in the short term, naturally to the disadvantage of the employer who loses in the competitive bargaining process. The usual procedure by which a business protects itself from competition for its employees is a restrictive covenant; that is conspicuous by its absence in the relevant contracts. If there were such covenants, the employee could invite the court to avoid them if on accepted principles of law they were unreasonable in their width or their duration . . The law has always looked with favour upon the efforts of employees to advance themselves, provided that they do not steal or use the secrets of their former employer. In the absence of restrictive covenants, there is nothing in the general law to prevent a number of employees in concert deciding to leave their employer and set themselves up in competition with him.’


Cumming-Bruce LJ


[1982] FSR 92


CitedInland Revenue Commissioners v Hambrook 1956
The Revenue claimed for loss resulting from its being deprived of the services of a taxing officer due to a vehicle accident.
Held: The action was dismissed. An action for that kind of loss did not lie where its relationship was with an . .

Cited by:

CitedCook v MSHK Ltd (Formerly Ministry Of Sound Holdings Ltd) and Another CA 9-Jul-2009
. .
CitedBalston Ltd v Headline Filters Ltd and Another 1987
The second defendant, whilst still during his notice period to leave employment by the plaintiff, began to make arrangements to start his own competing business, and solicited future business from a customer of the plaintiff. The plaintiff sought an . .
CitedIn Re a Firm of Solicitors TCC 16-Jul-1999
A firm of architects sought an order to prevent the defendants instructing a firm of solicitors including a solicitor who had been a partner in a firm representing them is earlier similar matters. The solicitor had personally been involved in . .
CitedUBS Wealth Management (UK) Ltd v Vestra Wealth Llp QBD 4-Aug-2008
The court considered the grant of ‘springboard relief’ and said: ‘In my judgment, springboard relief is not confined to cases where former employees threaten to abuse confidential information acquired during the currency of their employment. It is . .
CitedHydra Plc and others v Anastasi and others QBD 20-Jul-2005
. .
CitedCray Valley Limited v Deltech Europe Limited, Scanlan, Riley ChD 16-Apr-2003
Allegation of breach of confidence . .
CitedBolkiah v KPMG (A Firm) CA 22-Oct-1998
When considering whether an accountancy firm could be permitted to conduct an investigation on behalf of solicitors acting in a matter acting against a client for whom it still held confidential information, the court could find a balance between . .
CitedBritish Midland Tool Ltd v Midland International Tooling Ltd and Others ChD 12-Mar-2003
The claimant sought damages for conspiracy and other torts and breaches of duty against the defendants. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Intellectual Property, Employment

Updated: 11 May 2022; Ref: scu.432828