Ignorance as a Defence in Law
How many times have we seen and heard that according to the law “Ignorance is no excuse”?
Whether it be the Highway Code or tripping up on some obscure by-law, you’re guilty anyway. "Well," says Rob Stubbs, a partner in local law firm Banner Jones Solicitors, “there are in fact circumstances where ignorance is a perfectly valid defence. Take the recent case of Vestergaard Frandsen SA v Bestnet Europe.”
In the case the Supreme Court judges decided that a former employee, Mrs Sig, was not liable in breach of confidence after leaving her employment and setting up her own business manufacturing insecticidal bednets with a partner, the mysteriously named, S, which developed a product using her former employer’s trade secrets. The crucial point was that Mrs Sig was unaware at the time of her employment, and even later, of the trade secrets in question. It was her partner, S, who knew the secrets (being a former employee and consultant biologist to the employers). It was accepted that Mrs Sig had been unaware that S had introduced the trade secrets into their manufacturing process until some way through the court case.
Rob comments: “Quite clearly Mrs Sig’s business had improperly used someone else’s trade secrets, but the highest court in the land allowed Mrs Sig’s defence of being ignorant of their use to succeed. An interesting precedent”
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