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High Court Keeps Commercially Sensitive Product Information Secret

Litigation often requires disclosure of highly sensitive commercial details. However, as one intellectual property case concerning a mapping database showed, the courts do have sophisticated means of keeping such information under wraps.

A company had spent over £500,000 developing what it described as a unique and ground-breaking database of geospatial and other information, giving details to its customers of buildings, their coordinates and other attributes. The product, however, had become the focus of somewhat strained relations between the company and Ordnance Survey Limited (OSL), the government agency responsible for the official, definitive topographic survey and mapping of Great Britain.

The company launched proceedings, seeking, amongst other things, a declaration that its product does not infringe any database or copyright belonging to OSL and an injunction restraining the latter from making any allegations to the contrary. The case also raised issues as to whether the product breached any prior licence or contractual agreement between the company and OSL.

By their very nature, the proceedings would involve analysis of confidential details concerning the product and the parties had agreed that all those who would need access to such information should join a confidentiality club that was designed to prevent leakage of the company’s secrets into the public domain. The facts of the case emerged as the High Court granted leave for the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, and another representative of that body, to join the club.

77M Limited v Ordnance Survey Limited. Case Number: IP-2016-000111