Disappointed people often claim that others have made themselves rich by usurping their brilliant business ideas. However, as a High Court ruling in a case concerning a thriving online fashion company showed, proving such allegations can be an uphill struggle.
An entrepreneur claimed that he had conceived and developed a business plan for the sale of so-called 'fast fashion' through the use of social media and collaboration with reality TV stars. He asserted, amongst other things, that he had committed about £10,000 to the venture and that it was he who had come up with the company's name.
The company's share capital was subsequently subsumed into a group that floated on the Alternative Investment Market, raising about £125 million. In seeking a share of the fruits of success, the entrepreneur launched proceedings against the company's founder, alleging that he had revealed the business plan to him in confidence. He asserted that, in breach of his fiduciary duty, the founder had made unlawful use of the business plan and conspired with a friend to steal his idea.
The founder wholly denied those accusations and was adamant that the inspiration for the company came from elsewhere. He denied that he had taken advantage of the situation or breached any agreement with the entrepreneur. He had worked tirelessly to develop and grow the business towards its listing without any involvement or input from the entrepreneur.
Following a trial, the Court noted that it was incumbent on the entrepreneur to prove his case. On the documentary and oral evidence, it came to the firm view that the narrative of events advanced by the founder was true and that the narrative advanced by the entrepreneur was false.
The Court found that the idea behind the company and its business had emanated from the founder and his friend and that the entrepreneur had played no part in it. At the only meeting between the two men, the entrepreneur was sounded out as a potential investor, but matters proceeded no further than that. Given those findings, the entrepreneur's claim had to fail.