Know-how protection 4.0

05.12.2016

How companies can strategically safeguard their digital business model

Data, algorithms and software are the strategic assets of digital business models. However, many firms lag behind in protecting this secret know-how and other confidential information. Failure to put in place proper protection will have more legal consequences in future: those who do not appropriately protect their know-how will no longer be deemed worthy of protection in court proceedings for theft of trade secrets.

By 5 July 2018 at the latest, German lawmakers will have to transpose the EU Directive on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information into national law. From that date, the owners of trade secrets must demonstrate and prove in infringement proceedings that their know-how is adequately protected, including for the past.

However, achieving a suitably effective level of protection is not a trivial matter. Protecting trade secrets is becoming more and more difficult in the increasingly interlinked structures of the digital economy. Risks can come from all sides – from employees, hackers or business partners. Companies thus need to proactively counteract the ever-present threat of losing know-how.

Three areas of protection are essential:

    • Organisational measures
    • Legal or contractual safeguards
    • IT security standards

The basis for effective know-how protection is to capture important know-how systematically within the company and to categorise relevant information and bearers of trade secrets. Legal measures, such as contracts with employees and business partners or terms and conditions (T&C), form the framework of digital business models. And only adequate IT security guarantees that secrets are actually protected.

The new Noerr white paper, Know-how protection 4.0, details what needs to be done and how companies should prepare now for the new legal situation.