The Weiss Technik Group, a division of the Schunk Group and leader in environmental simulation and air systems technology, today secured a judgment against four former employees for breach of confidence, copyright infringement and breach of contract.
Despite Weiss having robust defences to prevent IP theft from outside the organisation, between 2015 and 2018, Weiss Technik UK was subject to an internal attack by rogue employees.
According to the judge, the former employees "obtained large swathes of material from Weiss", with the main protagonist continuing "to receive ad hoc information regularly from existing employees of Weiss, including documents sent via their personal email addresses".
Weiss Technik claimed that a former employee, Mr Steve Jones, established a competing business, SJJ System Services Limited, by taking large swathes of confidential Weiss information and software, which he used to compete with Weiss Technik. The judge found that "SJJ's business was from the outset based on diverting customers from Weiss UK using Weiss's customer information".
Mr Jones was assisted in his enterprise by three other former employees, Mr Christopher Davies, Mrs Catheryn Whitfield and Mr Ben Oram, who continued to provide Mr Jones and SJJ with confidential information until they departed from the business.
The proceedings began with the execution of a without notice search and imaging order. Tens of thousands of documents found in SJJ's servers were responsive to initial searches for Weiss Technik's proprietary software packages, customer database and other confidential and/or copyright documents. It took just over four years from the execution of the search and imaging order for the Court to deliver its judgment.
Issues arose during proceedings as to the case management of the claim in circumstances where 40,000 documents responded to the keywords identifying Weiss Technik confidential and/or copyright documents. It was necessary to reduce the claims to a more manageable scope by adopting a 'trial by sample' approach.
Evidence from the Defendants was found by the judge to be "inconsistent and incomplete" and "deliberately evasive". One Defendant was found to be "entirely unreliable" and another's credibility "tainted". In contrast, the Claimant's central witness was found to be "a straightforward and patently honest witness".
Malcolm Youll, Managing Director of Weiss Technik UK, commented: "I am delighted to have secured a favourable judgment. This outcome brings the Defendant's dishonest and unethical actions, which led to the closure of an entire plant at Ebbw Vale and a number of redundancies, to justice."
Jeremy Hertzog, Partner at Mishcon de Reya, who acted on behalf of the Weiss Technik Group, commented: "Today's judgment is a very positive result, which brings to an end over four years of complex proceedings. It is pleasing to see our client vindicated in its pursuit of a fair outcome following such significant IP theft."