Did a former employee misuse confidential information? Issues in the case of Bluescope Steel Ltd v Kelly
Date of this Version
This Federal Court decision1 concerns misuse of confidential information by a former employee of Bluscope Steel. After his retirement, the respondent provided information to a foreign corporation as a paid consultant. Bluescope’s action was heard by Emmett J, who held that much of that information was derived from a secret Bluescope research project concerned with innovative steel-making processes on which the respondent had worked. In evidence, the respondent tried, but failed, to demonstrate that the information had been derived from public source, or resulted from his broader steel-making experience. The court granted an injunction and an account of profits calculated by reference to consultancy fees obtained from the foreign company. Interesting parallels arise on the facts with the recent case of Woolworths Limited v Mark Konrad Olson2(Woolworths). The case demonstrates that the court will grant an account for a breach of an express contractual duty of confidence while making an allowance for the respondent’s own efforts and know-how. The court also granted an injunction in broad terms relating to all information derived, from a secret research project, beyond what the applicant had been able to itemise during proceedings.