Plaintiff– Vogueserve International Pvt. Limited

Defendants – Rajesh Gosain & Ors

Court– High Court of Delhi

Coram – Justice Mukta Gupta

Brief facts:

The Plaintiff, Vogueserve International Private Limited, is an Indian company which was engaged in the business of trading of home textiles, home decorative, furnishing and clothing etc. and provide buying services for international buying companies. All four Defendants were employed with Vogueserve until July 2011. When they resigned, they took with them, the client database and other confidential information. In November 2011 they started a new company under the name of “Excel Buying Services” dealing in the same line of business as Vogueserve. They continued to contact Vogueserves clients through their old email id and used the information that they had taken. Vogueserve filed an FIR against the former employees to initiate criminal proceedings and filed a suit with the Court and sought an injunction against Defendants from contacting their former clients in particular “STRAUSS innovations”, “BOLTZE”, “IMPRESSIONEN”, “SCHNEIDER”, and DS PRODUKTE”.

During the defendant’s time working with Vogueserve, their employment contract had the following clause:

  • You shall maintain complete secrecy of information and know-how regarding our business that may come to your knowledge during the course of your tenure with the Company. You shall not utilize, disclose or divulge the same to any other person/Origination.
  • You recognize and acknowledge that the company shall own all work products created by you during your term of service contract and ownership of all rights, titles and interests of the intellectual proprietary rights, therein shall rest exclusively with the company “Vogueserve International Pvt. Limited”. You also acknowledge that the restriction is reasonable and necessary to protect the legitimate interest of the company. That any breach by you will result in irreparable injury to the company for which a remedy at law would be inadequate.
  • Accordingly, you acknowledge that the company shall be entitled to temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief against you in the event of any breach or threatened breach by you, in addition to any other remedy that may be available at law or equity.

The interim injunction was granted ex-parte and the High Court was deciding the matter on appeal.


  1. Whether the products/materials/data sought to be used by the Defendants is of a kind which entails Intellectual Propriety Rights?
  2. Whether the bar under Section 27 of the Contract Act (any agreement in restraint of trade of business or lawful profession is void) would be attracted?

Plaintiff’s contentions:

The Plaintiff argued that all the confidential data and information regarding internal processes, specific client profile, client details, business strategy and methods, finances, client budget, pricing structure, upcoming projects, vendors business profiles etc., all of which amounted to “literary work” under Copyright belonged to them. They also argued that a client database, also fell under the scope of material which was entitled to copyright protection. By virtue of the employment agreement, the Intellectual Property, which included copyright belonged only to them.

Defendant’s contentions and injunction:

The Defendants argued that the client database which consisted on phone numbers and contact information etc, was available in the public and accordingly copyright could not be claimed by Vogueserve.

Additionally they argued that any contract which was in restrained trade or business was void, as was the employment agreement with its non-compete clause.

They sought to have the interim injunction vacated.

Judgment and analysis:

The Honourable Judge first held that though there is no doubt that a contract for restraint of trade or profession is a void contract, but in this case the defendants were fully aware of the fact that whatever work products they create during the course of their employment, will be owned by the plaintiff company only.

After referring to the provisions of Section 17(c) of the Copyright Act which provides that if a work is made in the course of other’s employment under a contract of service, it is the employer who is the first owner of the copyright, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary. Further, a reference was made as to what can be included in literary works and would such information include a list of clients and their addresses.

By referring to various precedents and commentaries, the Judge deduced that a compilation of addresses developed by any one by devoting time, money, labour and skill, though the sources may be commonly situated, amounts to a ‘literary work’ wherein the author has a copyright, which means that the list of clients created by the defendants at the time of the employment falls within the ambit of literary works under the Copyrights Act and thus, the plaintiff Company is the first owner of the said literary work.

On the basis of the contentions and the analysis the Judge held that the Plaintiff Company had made a prima facie case in their favour and he confirmed the interim order passed by the Court.

This article has been authored by Navarre Roy, an IP Law practitioner.