The employer applying for injunctions in Whitmar Publications Ltd v Gamage was a publisher specialising in magazines for the printing industry; the defendants were the former sales manager, senior editor and a production editor. The defendants all resigned on the same day, after which their ex-employer discovered that they were setting up a rival business. The employer asked the Court for injunctions, including "springboard" relief to prevent the ex-employees profiting from the use of names on business cards they had obtained whilst employed. This type of injunction is becoming increasingly popular in confidentiality cases (it can be used in circumstances where, as here, there are no enforceable non-compete or non-solicitation/dealing clauses) and quite often this so-called "interim relief" turns out to be the employer's main and final remedy – in this case the defendants described it as "a matter of life and death" whether the injunction would or would not be granted.
Despite the seniority of the ex-employees, the High Court concluded that the confidentiality obligations they owed were only the basic "fidelity" duties of an ordinary employee, not the more wide-ranging fiduciary obligations which apply to directors. However, on the evidence of the defendants' activities prior to termination of employment, the Judge decided that there was a strong case that they had breached their confidentiality duties as employees by taking steps to compete for over a year before they left. A key factor was the secrecy with which the defendants had conducted themselves while employed – there was plenty of evidence of this, one example being an email saying "All traces destroyed here".
The Court therefore agreed to issue injunctions against the defendants preventing them using customer databases, business cards and, interestingly, Linked-In groups which had been operated by one of ex-employees for the benefit of the employer. It appeared that these groups had been the source of addresses for the new rival company's invitation to an event. This is one of only a very few examples of a court recognising that Linked-In contacts can form part of an employer's confidential information.