An injunction is an equitable remedy for breach of contract — or, for that matter, tort, but finance types tend not to care so much about them — that originated in the English courts of equity. Its aim: to stop someone behaving inequitably — to “enjoin” the person so to speak, from indulging in turpitude — thereby providing a redress for wrongs for which an award of money damages — the usual tool in the common law’s armoury — doesn’t quite scratch the itch. An injunction can be given only when there is “no adequate remedy at law” — meaning, principally, the common law, but we suppose it could include statute and regulation as well. Compare with specific performance.
Injunctions to enforce confidentiality agreements
There common conception, at least among the draughtspeople of confidentiality agreements, that having your recipient acknowledge in the contract that your contractual obligations, while of course severe, are of a type for which damages might not be adequate compensation improve your odds of obtaining an equitable injunction later. Thus, it is common to see confidentiality agreements do just that.
But — and here’s the snippy bit — in the commercial world, anything of value is meant to be quantifiable in the dollars and sense. Homo economicus’ view might be blinkered; it might be philistine — but it conforms to classic economic theory. So in one sense if the right you feel has been infringed can’t be addressed with folding stuff, it can’t have been very valuable.
And so, in most cases where a confidentiality agreement bites, this seems to be the case. If — boring example — I give you my confidential shareholding arrangements so you can complete your KYC procedures, or if — racy one — for a fat payoff, you agree a venal gagging clause to not disclose the terrible psychological damage I inflicted on you where you were my studio gopher, and then you go and blab about these things, I might be embarrassed, but I am not likely to suffer much direct financial loss. Am I? Even if you publish my confidential client list to the world, my loss is likely to be indirect: the loss of profits from business I didn’t, as a consequence win, which any student of the law of contracts will know is hard to recover under a normal contract action.