Title: Spies, brain drains and allied problems: Reflections on English industrial espionage law

Authors: Keith Hodkinson

Addresses: Lecturer in Intellectual Property Law, Faculty of Law, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK; Consultant, Marks and Clerk, Manchester M3 3JY, UK

Abstract: Much technology transfer occurs involuntarily, either through its unintentional disclosure by employees, or, more sinisterly, by industrial espionage. This paper surveys the law concerning industrial espionage in England. The lack of specialized legal codes to cover industrial espionage results in gaps in legal protection, and expense and difficulty for plaintiffs seeking redress through the courts. The inadequate protection offered by patent law, the difficulties inherent in combating employee poaching and subsequent misuse of disclosed information, and the limited methods available to take action against purchasers of stolen information, are some of the chief areas highlighted. English law does not, by any means, cover all methods of acquiring legally confidential information without authority from its owner. The paper concludes with an examination of possible defences to secrecy claims, abuses of court procedures and the shortcomings of the 1911 Official Secrets Act.

Keywords: industrial espionage; computer hacking; trade secrets; know-how; employee poaching; communications interception; surveillance; privacy; security; English law; technology transfer; Official Secrets Act.

DOI: 10.1504/IJTM.1988.025958

International Journal of Technology Management, 1988 Vol.3 No.1/2, pp.87 - 103

Available online: 26 May 2009 *

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