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[ISN] New law eyed to counter industrial spies / Stealing secrets alone to be punishable
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Jan. 15, 2008
To prevent industrial spying that jeopardizes corporate secrets, the
Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has decided to push for the
enactment of a new law that will enable authorities to more easily
establish a criminal case against a spy once he or she takes
confidential information from a company.
The theft or leaking of Japanese companies' proprietary technical
information to overseas firms and governments is a growing concern for
industries. Under the Penal Code, however, it is impossible to prosecute
an industrial spy only for stealing confidential information. The new
law is aimed at clamping down on espionage offenses and protecting
companies' competitive strengths. The law also will aim to prevent
technology that can be used for military purposes from being taken
outside the firm or firms that own it.
The ministry also plans to revise the Patent Law so that patents on
technology or ideas that are important in terms of security issues do
not need to be made public.
The ministry intends to submit bills for both the new law and the
revised Patent Law to the ordinary Diet session next year.
The Unfair Competition Prevention Law has served as the basis for
prosecuting people for industrial espionage, which is regarded under the
law as the offense of improperly accessing business secrets. However, it
can be applied only when someone has leaked confidential information
about a company that is important for its business to a rival company,
thereby hindering fair competition. Moreover, the law requires that the
person or company that has received the leaked information be
identified, even if the firm is based overseas, which makes it extremely
difficult to establish an industrial spying case. As a result, no
industrial spy has been indicted under the law.
Also, if information that can be used for military purposes is leaked
overseas or to a company that is not a rival of the owner of the
information, such a case cannot be established under the law. What is
more, stealing information is not regarded as theft under the Penal Code
because the stolen information is neither money nor an object.
Therefore, the ministry has concluded there is a need to clamp down a
wide variety of industrial espionage activities and breaches of security
and is considering consulting on the matter at the Industrial Structure
Council, an advisory panel under the economy, trade and industry
minister, in spring after discussing details of the new law at a study
group inside the ministry.
Under the ministry's plan, the new law will be designed to clamp down on
theft of information and will be designed so that someone can be
prosecuted only for intentionally obtaining and/or leaking company
information that is important for its business operations and is
generally treated as confidential information within the company.
In March, a Chinese engineer employed by Denso Corp. in Kariya, Aichi
Prefecture, was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement in connection with
taking a company computer containing product data. It was known at the
time that he had returned to China three times at around the same time
he had downloaded a huge amount of product design data. But the police
were not able to establish whether the data had been handed to another
company and gave up trying to build a case.
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