Firms learn to better protect themselves
High-tech enterprises in Beijing's Zhongguancun area -- dubbed China's Silicon Valley -- are learning to legally protect management business secrets.
The message was conveyed Tuesday at a seminar organized by the Zhongguancun Science Park Management Commission, who invited judges from the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court to discuss how to legally avoid unfair competition.
Entrepreneurs from more than 20 enterprises based in Zhongguancun took part in the seminar.
Currently, many information technology (IT) companies in Zhongguancun sign contracts with core technology staff, forbidding them from joining other companies in the same industry within a certain number of years after they leave the original company, said Zhao Mulan, commissioner of the Zhongguancun Science Park Management Commission.
"Currently, many foreign software companies hire outstanding workers from Chinese competitors, which has had a negative impact for the development of Chinese software producers," Lei Rongnian, human resources director with MetarNet, said.
Zhang Guangliang, deputy chief judge of the intellectual property rights (IPR) division of the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People Court, pointed out that such prohibition will be simply ineffective if they company does not pay technology staff during that period.
"Otherwise, the company will violate the technology staff's right to work," Zhang told entrepreneurs.
The judge also noted that the prohibition period cannot be too long, at most five years.
However, there is no law prescribing how much employees should be compensated for the prohibition, said Su Chi, president of the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court.
But according to the Zhongguancun Science Park Management Regulation adopted by the Beijing Municipal People's Congress in 2000, the amount of compensation should be at least half of the previous annual income.
While, Zhao, the Zhongguancun commissioner, said the regulation does not illustrate clearly whether the income includes options and other long-term incomes.
Meanwhile, Su said that if companies fail to adopt effective measures and clear definitions to protect commercial secrets, the Law Against Unfair Competition would not protect them.
"This is why some companies lost their lawsuits over alleged commercial espionage," he said.
"Relevant contracts signed between company and core staff should be detailed enough to illustrate what the commercial secret is, who is involved and what they cannot do," Su said.
Su Tuesday sang high praise over high-tech entrepreneurs' knowledge of IPR protection compared with 10 years ago.
"Your active participation in the seminar has proved this," he said.
The court and the Zhongguancun Science Park Commission both agreed to hold similar activities in the future to answer questions from entrepreneurs over IPR protection.