12 July 2023
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Twitter v Threads: A quick dive into a springboard injunction?

To The Point
(3 min read)

Twitter alleges that its ex-employees and Threads have used its confidential information to gain a competitive, unlawful advantage after the copycat app launched on Wednesday. Addleshaw Goddard looks at a springboard injunction as the solution. A springboard injunction acts to cancel out an advantage – this could be by banning Threads from retaining Twitter's ex-employees or even shutting Threads down until the unlawful head-start has been nullified. 

Launched on Wednesday, Threads is a text-based app pitched by Meta as a 'friendly' alternative to Twitter and other similar social media apps.

Twitter responded promptly with a letter to Meta's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, claiming that Meta was guilty of 'systematic, wilful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter's trade secrets and other intellectual property.'

One of Twitter's key claims is that Meta hired dozens of former Twitter staff 'who had and continue to have access to Twitter's trade secrets and other confidential information' in order to create the 'copycat' Threads app.

The letter goes on to reserve Twitter's right to seek both civil remedies and injunctive relief.

What are Twitter's next steps?

When employees leave their employment, one of the top priorities for employers is protecting the business' confidential information. If employers suspect that their former employee might use such information, an ordinary confidentiality injunction is usually the best method to prevent it.

However, in Twitter's case, that confidential information has allegedly already been used to create the 'copycat' app. Twitter's former employees have already gained an unfair competitive advantage and an ordinary injunction will not provide the proper protection because the confidential information is no longer confidential.

Twitter needs a springboard injunction.

A springboard injunction is a remedy available to English High Court that acts to cancel out an unlawful advantage. A classic scenario when a springboard injunction is used is where one business has misused confidential information belonging to another to gain an unfair advantage, often because of employees moving from one employer to a competing one. 

Springboard injunctions can take many forms, from preventing a competing business from hiring or retaining key employees to a ban on dealing with customers until the unlawful head start has been nullified. 

In this case, if Twitter brought proceedings in the English High Court, it would most likely be looking to obtain a springboard injunction to neutralise the head-start that Threads has gained. To get an initial injunction Twitter would need to demonstrate a good arguable case that confidential information has been taken and misused by Threads. It would then need to show the Court that this has resulted in a "head start" that is ongoing. 

The difficulty in these types of cases is demonstrating the length of the head start and making sure the form of the injunction is targeted at the wrongdoing and resulting head start. In this case it might result in Threads not being able to employ former Twitter employees for a period of time, it might even result in Threads being shut down temporarily.  Typically, the Court will grant an interim injunction with a speedy trial being listed to determine the claim. 

Next steps

Addleshaw Goddard is recognised as the market-leading Business Protection Practice. Our team’s work focuses on advising organisations on team moves and helping employers to manage the risks stemming from employees and third parties who pose a threat to their legitimate interests, by taking action to enforce the employer’s rights and protect confidential information ranging from securing undertakings or obtaining injunctive relief, to pursuing claims for damages/loss of profits.

For further information about our Business Protection Practice, please contact us.

To the Point 

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