Trade Secrets are not a toothless tiger

In the US, a Chinese national, previously employed by multinational drug company Sanofi has been jailed for 18 months and ordered to pay restitution for stealing trade secrets including previously unpublished and unpatented potential drug compounds.

The former employee downloaded data from Sanofi records either by emailing it to her personal account, or onto a USB stick. She then tried to use the data in her own business, a subsidiary of a Chinese corporation.

The key issues in protecting trade secrets (aka confidential information) are:

  • to have in place rigorous management systems to control the identity and location of, and access to secret information,
  • to back those systems up by contractual terms with employees, and
  • to have widespread education programs, include entry and exit interview processes which highlight the management systems and the attitude of the company to the value of the information.