Monday, June 14, 2010

When Does Research End and Industrial Espionage Begin?

law.com

There's a fine line between spying on the competition and researching the competition. Going to a trade show or posing as a customer is one thing. Stealing product information like Julia Roberts or Clive Owen in the movie 'Duplicity" is something else entirely.

And it's critical that in-house lawyers help make sure their company's employees know the difference. Otherwise, they could find themselves in murky legal waters, said lawyers at a panel discussion about corporate espionage at the 22nd Annual General Counsel Conference in New York on Wednesday.

To help make sure its salespeople don't unwittingly break the law, Thomson Reuters teaches them how to get information about competitors legally, said Natasha Wyss, principal legal counsel at Thomson Reuters markets. "Most are not bad actors," she said. "They're zealously trying to do their job. It's our job to direct them through that."

Stakeouts, bribes, hacking, burglary, and electronic eavesdropping are definite no-nos. Talking to current employees of the competition can be tricky. So can hiring employees who used to work for the competition. They may have confidential information from their previous jobs, such as customer lists, that they don't know they shouldn't be using.

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