A restrictive covenant will only be enforceable if an employer can show that it has a legitimate interest to protect, and that the covenant is reasonable in scope.
Generally, this means that a non-solicitation covenant will need to be limited to customers and clients known to the employee during a specified period before termination of employment. However, in Safetynet Security Ltd v Coppage, the Mercantile Court has enforced a six month restrictive covenant which sought to prevent a director from soliciting anyone who had been a customer of Safetynet at any time during his employment.
Mr Coppage was the Business Development Director of Safetynet, a relatively small company providing security services, with one branch and around 90 customers. He had been recruited specifically to be the face of Safetynet, and was personally known by most of the customers. Safetynet brought a claim for breach of the non-solicitation covenant when five of their customers moved to Mr Coppage’s new company shortly after his resignation. In the context of Mr Coppage’s key role in Safetynet’s business, the court considered the covenant to be both necessary and reasonable in order to protect its customer base and goodwill. The outcome would probably have been different if Safetynet had been larger, and if Mr Coppage had not known all of its clients.