No success for Questor in its quest for an injunction
Questor Technology Inc v Stagg, 2020 ABQB 3
Despite whatever the clauses in employment agreements may read, an injunction will likely not be granted if it does not seem fair and equitable to do so.
In this decision, while the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta (the “ABQB”) declined to issue an injunction in favour of Questor Technology Inc (“Questor”), it did order former employees of Questor (the “Defendants”) to return to Questor any and all confidential information they had taken from Questor in breach of their employment contracts.
Questor, an environmental technology company, is in the business of selling custom incinerators, used primarily in the oil and gas industry for burning waste gasses like methane. The Defendants had designed a low-pressure waste gas combustion solution for Questor, while employed by Questor. However, after departing from Questor, the Defendants launched a company of their own, offering a competing low-pressure waste gas incinerator (the “Competing Technology”).
Questor asserts it is the owner of the Competing Technology by way of either: (i) terms of the employment contracts signed by the Defendants, or (ii) application of the common law. As such, Questor sought an injunction against the Defendants from aspects such as competing in the market against Questor, or infringing Questor’s intellectual property (“IP”) – Questor claimed it owned the IP relating to the Competing Technology.
The sole issue in this decision was determining whether an interim injunction ought to be granted in favour of Questor against the Defendants.
The ABQB ran through the test in RJR-MacDonald Inc v Canada (AG),  1 SCR 311 to determine whether an injunction ought to be granted. The test would require Questor to demonstrate: (a) that there is a serious issue to be tried; (b) that Questor will suffer irreparable harm if the application is refused; and (c) that the balance of convenience weighs in favour of granting the injunction. However, the ABQB found that this case was an exception, where a higher standard would apply for the first element of the test, namely that Questor would need to establish a strong prima facie case.
A detailed analysis of the Defendants actions led the ABQB to determine that Questor had not established a strong prima facie case for the injunction. Similarly, the ABQB was unconvinced that Questor had clearly proven that it would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction were not granted. Finally, the balance of convenience seemed to favour the Defendants, as an injunction would shut down everything they had built, while Questor, a larger, publicly-traded company, would likely be unaffected if the injunction was denied.
The ABQB remarked that as injunctions are an equitable remedy, it would not be fair and just to issue one in those circumstances.
Different areas of the law are often much more interconnected than people may believe. Obligations to confidential information, employment agreements and assignments of inventions all affect IP rights. While the ABQB did not answer questions like whether Questor was the rightful owner of the Competing Technology, the questions themselves still played a key role in determining the outcome of the case. Even if relevant IP questions had been answered, it would still likely have been unjust to grant an injunction in this case.
If you are dealing with a legal issue where IP may be involved, please feel free to reach out to MBM for a free consultation.
For more information please contact:
Osman Ismaili, Associate Lawyer
This article is general information only and is not to be taken as legal or professional advice. This article does not create a solicitor-client relationship between you and MBM Intellectual Property Law LLP. If you would like more information about intellectual property, please feel free to reach out to MBM for a free consultation.