Breach of confidence intellectual property, also referred to as the law of confidence, is used to protect confidential information, like registered designs and patents, by keeping people who have obtained the information in confidence from using it to benefit while damaging the person or organization that shared the information. When seeking action against someone for breach of confidence, the main goal of the person filing the claim is to stop the other person from sharing confidential information that's of value to the one pursuing the action.

A Duty of Confidence

Breach of confidence is used as a remedy if confidential information is used or shared without the proper authority. A duty of confidence is formed when one person is given access to valuable information like trade secrets or sensitive information that is key to the way a business operates. The person receiving the confidential information then has the responsibility to not disclose the information to anyone else and not use the information for any reason other than the original intentions of the party sharing the information.

Injunction to Restrain the Confidante

If the confidante makes a threat to divulge the sensitive information, The one who shared the information, the confider, has the right to file an injunction to stop the confidante from any unauthorized use of the confidential information. Some types of confidential information include trade secrets, personal information, business secrets, and professional information, such as:

  • Information obtained through research
  • Formulae
  • Production processes
  • Recipes
  • Results from testing
  • Source codes
  • Budgetary data
  • Client lists
  • Plans for marketing the business
  • Diaries and journals
  • Pictures
  • Private information about public figures
  • Information that was shared with a solicitor
  • Accounting information
  • Facts shared with a professional advisor

What Intellectual Property Is

Intellectual property is the legal rights attached to intellectual activity as it relates to industry, science, the literary field, and the artistic field. There are two main reasons countries have laws in place that protect intellectual property.

  1. The laws protecting intellectual property provide statutory expressions to the ethical and financial rights of the people who develop creations.
  2. Intellectual property laws also promote creativity along with the sharing and application of the results of creativity while encouraging a level of fair trade that boosts economic growth and social development.

Ownership of Intellectual Property

The type of intellectual property being discussed is what determines who owns it. As an example, a trademark owner is a person or entity who receives the issued trademark. The owner of a copyright is determined by whether the copyrighted material, like computer software, was produced during the course of employment or on the creator's own time. If the copyrighted material was created through the creator's time as an employee, or under a contract of service, the employer then owns the copyright, unless the employee and employer agreed differently before the copyrighted material was produced.

Commercially Valuable Information

The law regarding breach of confidence provides refuge for company secrets and information that has value on a commercial level. If there is an agreement between the employer and employee, even work produced outside the scope of work can be held as confidential information that's subject to breach of confidentiality laws. The law of confidence states that anyone connected with the production process has a duty of confidentiality. If the processes used to produce something are the key to its uniqueness, instead of the product itself, the law of confidence can be used to keep the method of production secret.

Duration of Protection from the Law of Confidence

The law of confidence stays in effect until another inventor discovers the process with no insight from parties bound by confidentiality laws. While patent protection covers 20 years, the law of confidentiality can remain in effect much longer. This applies to all types of commercial, private, and governmental information. It's an alternative to copyright, patent protection, and statutory design in the intellectual property field. There are several advantages of confidentiality rules, including:

  • There are no formal applications or registrations.
  • There are no fees to pay.
  • It doesn't have to be specified, because the circumstances at play when information is exchanged between the involved parties allow it to be implied.

If you need help with a breach of confidence regarding intellectual property, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.