Unlawful to copy an employer's data prior to termination of employment

It is against the law to copy an employer's documents prior to termination of employment. However, a prohibitory injunction in this respect was too far-reaching. Judgment of 6 November 2015 of the Danish Supreme Court.

The Danish Supreme Court ruled that by copying documents immediately prior to termination of the employment relationship, an employee (A) had unduly gained access to business secrets of the employer company (C) in contravention of Section 19 (1) of the Danish Marketing Practices Act.

In addition to this, the Supreme Court judged that it must be considered likely that A would make use of or disclose C's business secrets, bearing in mind that A initiated a co-operation with a competing company shortly after having left his position with C. 

In principle, the Supreme Court found that there were good reasons for issuing the injunction. However, the Court regarded the issued injunction to be out of proportion since it completely precluded A from working with the composition developed and sold by C in which A had been involved both before and during his employment with C. Therefore, the Supreme Court cancelled the injunction for not being legally conducted, for which reason the seizure was not legal either.

The judgment is a matter of principle as it shows that copying an employer's confidential information to which the employee has had legal access not only constitutes grounds for summary dismissal (which has already been established by judgment of 24 February 2005 from the Danish Western High Court in case B-0502-04 and by judgment of 17 August 2015 from the Danish Eastern High Court) but may at the same time form the basis for a prohibitory injunction reaching beyond the expiry of the employment relationship. 

The Supreme Court also establishes that such injunction may not - neither in terms of time nor contents - go beyond what is necessary to safeguard the company's reasonable interests. In the present case the requirement of proportionality was not fulfilled.

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