It's a good week for sorting out confidentiality cases. Only yesterday the IPKat finally sorted out the awesome decision in Imerman v Tchenguiz (here), and now he's catching up on Robert Andrew Jones v Ricoh UK Ltd  EWHC 1743 (Ch), a Chancery Division for England and Wales decision of Mr Justice Roth midway through last month.
Ricoh supplied office equipment to CMP -- which in turn provided assistance to other companies in procuring and running the machines it provided for them. Jones was the founder, principal shareholder, managing director of CMP and eventually the assignee of the causes of action which it owned when it went into liquidation. CMP's confidentiality agreement with Ricoh
* barred the manufacturer from using any "confidential information" [widely defined, naturally, but not, in the Kat's opinion, intolerably so] which CMP gave it, except for the purpose of evaluating the purchasing terms available to CMP with a view to Ricoh's entering into an agency agreement with CMP, and* provided that no "relevant person" who remained in possession of any confidential information could contact any other such "relevant person" [the definition of "relevant person" was so wide that it could only have been drafted by an IP lawyer with reckless indifference to competition law: the term covered not just Ricoh and all associated companies in the worldwide Ricoh group, but also the "employees, agents or professional advisors" of any such company].
Roth J agreed with Ricoh that the bar on sharing confidential information with any "relevant person" fell foul of Article 101(1) of the TFEU, giving the company summary judgment on that point. Among other reasons, the fact that Bombardier would be barred from receiving bids from Ricoh but could receive bids from other major suppliers was proof of its anticompetitive effect. Since this restriction amounted to a prohibition of competition and CMP was not acting as Ricoh's distributor or as a reseller, Ricoh and CMP were not operating at a different level of the distribution chain could not therefore rely on the Article 101(3) exemption for any agreement which "contributes to improving the production or distribution of goods or to promoting technical or economic progress, while allowing consumers a fair share of the resulting benefit" and which is soft and cuddly.