United States: 美国专家探讨商业秘密的保护方法

Last Updated: March 6 2018
Article by AFD China Intellectual Property

近期,一起涉及到共享出行领军企业优步(Uber)与自动驾驶设计商Waymo 的司法判决占据了各路媒体的头版位置。 虽然人们在头条新闻中时常会看到涉及专利与版权的诉讼,但这次出镜的却是一起少见的商业秘密案件。实际上,很少有人能够 意识到商业秘密对于美国经济的重要性。根据美国国家反间谍执行局的统计,企业每年因为商业秘密被窃而遭受到损失合计已达 到3000 亿美元。而且,如果这些企业想就这种窃取行为进行起诉,那么其通常还要面临巨大的开销以及冗长繁琐的司法程序。 虽然一纸禁令通常才是阻止竞争对手或前员工盗用商业秘密的唯一途径,但是人们仍可以考虑采取其他措施来更好地保护自己的 信息。那么所谓的商业秘密到底是什么呢?实际上,商业秘密指的就是那些在不对外公开的情况下能为其所有人带来经济利益的、 且所有人也尝试对其进行保密的信息。因此,商业秘密可以是技术信息或者专有技术;内部业务信息(包括市场营销与金融战略); 客户名单;软件、计算机程序与源代码;配方;或者外部业务信息(例如,供应商与竞争对手的信息)。有关商业秘密比较著名 的实例包括可口可乐与肯德基的配方以及谷歌的算法。而上述Waymo 与优步的案件则涉及到使用"激光雷达(LIDAR)"的汽车 自动驾驶技术。

尽管很多公司会从专利以及商业秘密二者的保护工作中受益,但是商业秘密与专利完全不同。例如,为了得到专利权, 人们首先需要对外公布某一发明的细节信息,从而才能在某一时限内阻止他人使用该发明。但是,商业秘密却能获得永久的保护, 只不过这需要人们采取一定的保密措施,并且这些商业秘密不能被他人知晓或者轻易的破解出来。像可口可乐和肯德基都曾对外 表示其已经将自身的商业秘密保存在保险库之中。虽然不可能每个人都采取类似的极端方式来保护其商业秘密,但是人们确实也 应该制定出适合自身情况的措施。

此外,美国国会也已意识到商业秘密的重要性,因此其在2016 年便通过了《商业秘密保护法》(DTSA)。尤其在这里 需要提到的是,DTSA 还专门针对窃取商业秘密的行为制定出了联邦诉因(federal cause of action)。要知道在DTSA 未颁布之 前,那些涉及到商业秘密的案件仅仅是按照美国各州的法律进行审理的。

对于商业秘密的所有人来讲,最理想的状态就是通过在内部做好保密工作来避免遭遇到各类诉讼和经济损害。而且,虽 然人们无法百分百地保证能够保护好企业的商业秘密,但是若能采取下列措施,或许也能起到一定的帮助作用:

找到自身的核心商业秘密并为之提供保护。在没有发现自身的商业秘密前,人们很难为这些秘密提供任何保护。所以, 人们应该详细记录下这些商业秘密,从而为防止他人访问这些秘密细节制定出最佳的策略。而且,相应的保护制度还应该将企业 员工以及外部有关各方接触商业秘密的方式纳入考量。当然,找出企业有可能失去宝贵商业秘密的方式也很重要。例如,当前利 用闪存盘以及云服务器窃取商业秘密的行为就呈现出上升态势(也就是所谓的网络攻击)。

针对商业秘密在公司内部制定出适宜的政策。在为商业秘密制定出相应的保护制度后,人们需要在正式政策中阐明每名 公司员工将以何种方式来接触到保密文档(诸如,客户名单)以及技术信息(因为在大部分涉及商业秘密的案件中均会涉及到上 述情形),同时还要确保员工对于有关政策了如指掌。

在每名新员工入职之前,要求与其签订保密协议以及发明转让协议。实际上,除了搞定现有的雇员,公司还须要积极 地管理好新入职的员工,并要求其签订保密协议与发明转让协议。同时,公司也应该要求新员工证明其并未从前雇主那里获得任 何的保密信息,从而避免因该员工存在窃取他人商业秘密的行为而承担责任。

在员工提出辞呈后要立即采取行动。在超过75%的商业秘密失窃案件中,被指控存在窃取行为的一方均是企业的在职员 工或者前雇员。因此,在那些可以访问商业秘密信息的员工向企业提出辞呈后,迅速采取行动是极其重要的工作。此时,要屏蔽 雇员电脑的访问路径,并且禁止其再删除任何类型的资料。公司要确保为该名员工安排一次离职谈话,并提醒员工其之前所签订 的保密协议以及要承担的责任。特别是在该员工曾负责核心研发工作或者即将为竞争对手公司工作的情况下,一定要将其个人电 脑和/或电子邮件进行取证,防范于未然。

不要忽视来自公司外部的风险。除了上述内部风险,公司面临的第二大威胁便来自于其商业伙伴。据悉,在大约20% 的商业秘密案件中,被指控盗用商业秘密的一方均为商业伙伴。这是因为企业总会在某些情况下不得不与来自外部的合作伙伴分 享一部分的商业秘密。因此,企业与任何可以访问商业秘密信息的一方签订保密协议并限制其访问路径是一件极为重要的事情。 (编译自 lexology.com)

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