Herbert Morris Ltd v Saxelby: HL 1916

For a covenant in restraint of trade to be treated as reasonable in the interests of the parties ‘it must afford no more than adequate protection to the benefit of the party in whose favour it is imposed.’ There is a need for the court to consider when determining whether the restraint secured no more than adequate protection to the party in whose favour it was imposed, in each particular case what it is for which and what it is against which protection is required.
Lord Parker could find no case in which a covenant against competition by a servant or apprentice had, as such, ever been upheld by the court. Wherever such covenants had been upheld it had been on the ground, not that the servant or apprentice would, by reason of his employment or training, obtain the skill and knowledge necessary to equip him as a possible competitor in the trade, but that he might obtain such personal knowledge of and influence over the customers of his employer, or such an acquaintance with his employer’s trade secrets as would enable him, if competition were allowed, to take advantage of his employer’s trade connection or utilise information confidentially obtained.
Lord Parker of Waddington said: ‘As I read Lord MacNaughten’s judgment, he was of the opinion that all restraints on trade of themselves, if there is nothing more, are contrary to public policy and therefore void. It is not that such restraints must of themselves necessarily operate to the public injury, but that it is against the policy of the common law to enforce them except in cases where there are special circumstances to justify them. The onus of proving such special circumstances must, of course, rest on the party alleging them.’ However: ‘It is quite different in the case of an employer taking such a covenant from his employee or apprentice. The goodwill of his business is, under the conditions in which we live, necessarily subject to the competition of all persons (including the servant or apprentice) who choose to engage in a similar trade. The employer in such a case is not endeavouring to protect what he has, but to gain a special advantage which he could not otherwise secure. I cannot find any case in which a covenant against competition by a servant or apprentice has, as such, ever been upheld by the court. Whenever such covenants have been upheld it has been on the ground, not that the servant or apprentice would, by reason of his employment or training, obtain the skill and knowledge necessary to equip him as a possible competitor in the trade, but that he might obtain such personal knowledge of and influence over the customers of his employer, or such acquaintance with his employer’s trade secrets as would enable him, if competition were allowed, to take advantage of his employer’s trade connection or utilise information confidentially obtained.’

Lord Parker of Waddington
[1916] 1 AC 688, [1916-17] All ER 305
England and Wales
Citing:
CitedNordenfelt v Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company HL 1894
Exceptions to Freedom to Trade
The purchaser of the goodwill of a business sought to enforce a covenant in restraint of trade given by the seller.
Held: At common law a restraint of trade is prima facie contrary to public policy and void, unless it can be shown that the . .

Cited by:
CitedAllan Janes Llp v Johal ChD 23-Feb-2006
The claimant sought to enforce a restrictive covenant against the defendant a former assistant solicitor as to non-competition within a certain distance of the practice for a period of three years. After leaving she had sought to set up partnership . .
CitedThomas v Farr Plc and Another CA 20-Feb-2007
The employee, the former chairman of the company, appealed a finding that his contract which restricted his being employed for one year in the same field after termination, was valid and enforceable. The company had provided insurance services to . .
CitedMcEllistrim v Ballymacelligott Co-operative Society HL 1919
The Co-operative had changed its rules to prevent any member from selling (except under heavy penalty) any milk produced by him in a large area of County Kerry to anyone except the Society, and a member could not terminate his membership without the . .
CitedEsso Petroleum Co Ltd v Harper’s Garage (Stourport) Ltd HL 1968
Agreement in Restraint of Trade Unenforceable
The defendant ran two garages under solus agreements with the plaintiffs who complained when the defendants began to purchase petrol from cheaper alternative sources. The House was asked whether the solus agreements were be regarded in law as an . .
CitedLiving Design (Home Improvements) Ltd for Interim Interdict SCS 19-Feb-1999
The petitioner company sought to enforce a post employment restrictive covenant agreed to by the respondent. He had given notice to leave, and the parties had setteled the departure with an additional restriction. The respondent denied that the . .
CitedFaccenda Chicken Ltd v Fowler CA 1986
Nature of Confidentiality in Information
The appellant plaintiff company had employed the defendant as sales manager. The contract of employment made no provision restricting use of confidential information. He left to set up in competition. The company now sought to prevent him using . .
CitedAssociated Foreign Exchange Ltd v International Foreign Exchange (UK) Ltd and Another ChD 26-May-2010
The claimant sought interim injunctions to enforce a restrictive covenant against solicitation of customers in a former employee’s contract. The employee, a FOREX dealer, had been placed on garden leave for three months and then his contract . .
CitedOffice Angels Ltd v Rainer-Thomas CA 1991
Reasonability Test of Post Employment Restriction
The court re-stated the principles applicable in testing whether an employee’s restrictive covenant was reasonable: ‘The court cannot say that a covenant in one form affords no more than adequate protection to a covenantee’s relevant legitimate . .
CitedLansing Linde v Kerr CA 1991
Staughton LJ held that ‘trade secrets’ embrace information used in a trade, restricted in its dissemination, and the disclosure of which would be liable to cause real or significant harm to the party claiming confidentiality. He considered the . .
CitedCaterpillar Logistics Services (UK) Ltd v Huesca De Crean QBD 2-Dec-2011
The claimant sought an order to prevent the defendant, a former employee, from misusing its confidential information said to be held by her. Her contract contained no post employment restrictions but did seek to control confidential and other . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Employment, Contract

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.240024