Printers and Finishers Limited v Holloway: 1965

The court considered the questions arising from the use of information acquired by an employee during his employment after that employment had ended, and noted that information the future use of which will not be restrained is information not readily separable in the mind of the employee from other information which he is free to use, and the actual or threatened misuse of information which has been deliberately memorised for the purpose of its being carried away and used elsewhere will be restrained.
The question was whether the knowledge was ‘a separate part of the employee’s stock of knowledge which a man of ordinary honesty and intelligence would recognise to be the property of his old employer.’ The law would defeat its own object if it sought to enforce standards which would be rejected by the ordinary person.
Cross J said: ‘The employee might well not realise that the feature or expedient in question was in fact peculiar to his late employer’s process and factory; but even if he did, such knowledge is not readily separable from his general knowledge of the flock printing process and his acquired skill in manipulating a flock printing plant, and I do not think that any man of average intelligence and honesty would think that there was anything improper in his putting his memory of particular features of his late employer’s plant at the disposal of his new employer.’ and
‘Although the law will not enforce a covenant directed against competition by an ex-employee, it will enforce a covenant reasonably necessary to protect trade secrets. If the managing director is right in thinking that there are features in the plaintiffs process which can fairly be regarded as trade secrets and which their employees will inevitably carry away with them in their heads, then the proper way for the plaintiffs to protect themselves would be by exacting covenants from their employees restricting their field of activity after they have left their employment, not by asking the court to extend the general equitable doctrine to prevent breaking confidence beyond all reasonable bounds.’


Cross J


[1965] RPC 239, [1965] 1 WLR 1

Cited by:

CitedPoeton Industries Ltd and Another v Michael Ikem Horton CA 26-May-2000
The claimant sought damages and an injunction after their former employee set up in business, using, they said, information about their manufacturing procedures and customers obtained whilst employed by them. The defendant appealed the injunction . .
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 . .
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 . .
CitedNapier and Another v Pressdram Ltd CA 19-May-2009
The claimant solicitors appealed against the refusal to grant them an injunction to prevent the publication of the outcome of a complaint against them to the Law society, and of the Ombudsman’s report. They said that the material remained . .
CitedThe Author of A Blog v Times Newspapers Ltd QBD 16-Jun-2009
The claimant, the author of an internet blog (‘Night Jack’), sought an order to restrain the defendant from publishing his identity.
Held: To succeed, the claimant would have to show that there would be a legally enforceable right to maintain . .
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 . .
CitedLittlewoods Organisations Ltd v Harris CA 1977
When construing restrictive covenants in an employment contract, the court should construe the contract in the light of the object and intent of the contract as a whole. It may be read down and need not be read literally. Lord Denning said that it . .
CitedBluebell Apparel Ltd v Dickinson SCS 14-Oct-1977
The former employee challenged a restriction on his post employment career.
Held: The restriction was world-wide and as such tooo wide, and unenforceable. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Intellectual Property, Employment

Updated: 16 May 2022; Ref: scu.200319