Levi Roots: New Case Law on Breach of Confidence

13-12-2011 10:16

Fans of reality TV will be familiar with the BBC programme The Dragons’ Den, whereby up-and-coming entrepreneurs attempt to convince a panel of wealthy and successful businessmen and women to invest in their products or businesses. 

One of the most well known people to enter the Dragons’ Den was Levi Roots who appeared on the show in February 2007 to attempt to gain support for his “Reggae Reggae Jerk/BBQ Sauce”.   He obtained investment in his business and went on to build up a successful brand in the sauce which I am sure most people would recognise in their local supermarkets.

In 2011, Levi Roots was sued by a cafe owner and (former) friend who claimed that he had developed the sauce and it was his “unique and secret recipe” which Levi Roots had gone on to exploit himself in breach of an alleged oral agreement between the two individuals or in breach of a duty of confidentiality.

The Claimant alleged that he and Levi Roots had agreed that they would exploit the sauce commercially together and that profits would be split between them.  Alternatively he argued that when he showed Levi Roots how to make the sauce he did so in circumstances of confidentiality and that the subsequent exploitation of the sauce by Levi Roots alone amounted to a breach of confidential information.  This was denied by the Defendant who said he had been experimenting with his own sauces for a number of years.

On 25 November 2011, the High Court handed down its decision (Bailey & Another v Graham & Others [2011] EWHC 3098).  Both arguments were rejected by the Judge who made a number of interesting points including the fact that the Claimant had not been interested in keeping an eye on the exploitation of the sauce by the Defendant, even though it was an allegedly “unique and secret” recipe of the Claimant.  The Court found that much of the conduct of the Claimant was inconsistent with a business agreement being in place as alleged by the Claimant.  The Court also rejected the argument that there had been a breach of confidence by Levi Roots.   

What is also interesting about this case is that the Judge stated that he could not rely on the evidence of either the Claimant or Levi Roots (except in certain specific places) and therefore had to rely on other witnesses.  In his judgment, he expressly addressed the credibility of other witnesses which would not normally be the case.

So...Levi Roots can continue to sell the sauce.  Reggae Reggae Turkey on Boxing Day, anyone?!

If you would like any more information on this subject, please contact Emma Hayward.

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