This post drills into the court’s exercise of remedial flexibility for breach of confidence and trade secret claims. It analyzes the GasTOPS Ltd. v. Forsyth and Equustek Solutions Inc. v Jack cases to examine the interplay between pre-trial injunctions obtained in the wake of discovering misappropriating activity and the final relief available at trial. The Equustek decision is notable in that it opens a window to obtaining both ongoing injunctive relief and an enforceable monetary judgment, at least where defendants fail to comply with pre-trial injunction orders.
Granting an injunction remedy that orders someone to do or refrain from doing a specific act is a hallmark of a property right, including in intellectual property. Yet for trade secrets and confidential information, Canadian courts take a “flexible and imaginative approach” to selecting the legal remedy – meaning that trade secrets may or may not be treated like intellectual property in this sense. This post explores why, in practice, the courts tend to be reluctant to grant an injunction prohibiting misappropriating behaviour after too much time has passed. As a result, asserting proprietary rights to a trade secret typically requires seeking a pre-trial injunction shortly after detecting the wrongdoing.
Confidentiality and trade secrecy claims often run aground on legal procedure issues relating to the scope of the claim and the exchange of evidence. If left too wide, speculative claims may lead to impossible discovery battles or unjustly chill departing employees and competitors. If made too narrow, a plaintiff be unable to fairly test the merits of their case. The British Columbian Court of Appeal reasoning in Steelhead LNG Limited Partnership v. Arc Resources Ltd., 2022 BCCA 128, provides a rare appellate level analysis of how this balance is to be struck.