Schauenburg Industries Ltd v Borowski (1979), 25 OR (2d) 737

Key Principle:

The creator of a work is presumed to hold the copyright to the work. While the unauthorized reproduction of a substantial part of a copyrighted machine drawing constitutes copyright infringement, so too may the unfair reproduction of certain important features of such a drawing represent copyright infringement. An employee entrusted with confidential information may bear a fiduciary duty to his employer that bars him from unfairly using that information to the detriment of his employer even after he has resigned.


The Situation:

Shortly after resigning, the former manager of one branch of your ventilation company starts up his own operation. You notice that he is selling ventilation tubes identical to the special kind your company makes. It turns out that the former manager retained the ventilation tube machine drawings that you supplied when he opened the branch. Using these drawings, he had a third party design similar machines for his own use. His company has poached many of your customers and you wonder whether you have a claim against him. Unfortunately, your ventilation tube machines are not patented.

The Conclusion:

The former branch manager is liable for copyright infringement. As works created by your employees, your company is presumed to hold the copyright to the machine drawings. And, in commissioning the production of his similar machines, the former manager substantially copied those drawings, thereby infringing your copyright.