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Attwood v Lamont [1920] 3 KB 571

Doctrine of severability not applicable to covenant for protection of plaintiff’s entire business

Facts

The plaintiff was a tailor and general outfitter who employed the defendant as an assistant. In the contract of employment, the defendant agreed  “either on his own account or on that of any wife of his or in partnership with or as assistant, servant, or agent to any other person, persons or company carry on or be in any way directly or indirectly concerned in any of the following trades or businesses; that is to say, the trade or business of a tailor, dressmaker, general draper, milliner, hatter, haberdasher, gentlemen's, ladies' or children's outfitter at any place within a radius of ten miles of Kidderminster.”

Issue

The defendant established a business as a tailor outside the agreed radius but obtained orders within the radius. The Divisional Court held that the covenant was wider than what was reasonably necessary for the protection of the plaintiff’s business but it was severable and, accordingly, granted an injunction which referred only to the tailoring trade.

Held

The defendant appealed to the Court of Appeal which reversed the decision of the Divisional Court. The covenant was not severable because it was a single covenant for the protection of the plaintiff’s entire business and not several covenants for the protection of several businesses. In any case, even if the covenant could be severed by confining it to the tailoring business it would still be void as being in restraint of competition. The Court observed that it may now be taken to be established that it is for a covenantee to show that the restraint sought to be imposed upon the covenantor goes no further than is reasonable for the protection of the business.


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