Confidentiality – protecting a business’s confidential information

Every business has its own unique recipe for success. The recipe should be protected from falling into the hands of the competition or being publicised in other ways.

As far as trade and company secrets are concerned, employees often have to enter into confidentiality agreements with their employers. In addition to consequences under employment law, legislation on unfair competition also provides for criminal sanctions in the case of confidential information being leaked:

  • Trade and business secrets – breach of confidentiality (§ 17 German Unfair Competition Act, UWG)
  • Reproduction of sensitive material (§ 18 UWG)
  • Incitement, inducement and acceptance of another’s request to breach confidentiality (§ 19 UWG)

However, in limited circumstances, the publication of a business’s confidential information is permissible. Such circumstances would include grossly inappropriate practices which cannot be addressed internally and which should be brought to the attention of the public. An example of this would be where a bank or insurance company has extensive problems with capital, through which customers’ money is at risk.

Such examples, however, are rare. In other cases it is necessary to seek legal advice as soon as knowledge of an alleged impermissible publication is obtained. In this way potential damage to the company and its working practices can be avoided.

Where obligatory public documents are concerned (such as yearly capital trading accounts under § 325 HGB), a company has options to control publications. As such, a company cannot prevent information being published, but it may be able to bring a claim for the impermissible way in which the information is published. Even here, a case-by-case analysis by a lawyer is required.

Do you need to protect yourself or your company from personality right infringements? Do you need to defend yourself against damaging publications? Or perhaps you simply have general questions of the right to free speech and rights of the press? We are here to help!

German lawyer Christian Solmecke and his expert team are available to answer your questions. Call us on +49 (0) 221 / 951 563 0.

Back to Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Press

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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