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Could the use of AI by employees result in a breach of a trade secret?


​by Karolina Sieraczek

13 June 2023

Solutions that speed up or streamline the employees’ performance are becoming very popular these days. Numerous applications and websites are available to generate ready-made solutions, texts or studies. These solutions can often be used free of charge, which only boosts their popularity and is expected to help improve them.

AI solutions used in companies can, however, pose serious risks. Confidential data more and more frequently leak out because of human actions rather than external attacks. Data security must be treated as a priority, as the consequences of leaking confidential information can be severe.

What is a trade secret?

A trade secret is technical, technological, organisational or other information of economic value which is not generally known or easily accessible. Adequate steps must be taken to keep it confidential.
This is a very broad definition that can cover a lot of information in a company. For example, a trade secret may refer to information about business partners and the applied pricing policies, technical plans, analyses made, methods of quality control of goods or types of marketing. Essentially, this information must be of value to the company concerned.

Breach of a trade secret – consequences

Since data are spreading via the Internet in a flash, the consequences of a breach of a trade secret may be very severe. 

The most severe of them is the sheer leak of data allowing third parties to use them. It is always difficult to tell who will gain access to confidential information and how they will use it. 

The legislation regulates unlawful disclosure and use of trade secrets. Among other things, it is possible to demand statements to be published in the press and the payment of agreed compensation. 

The Labour Code also regulates the employees’ liability for actions contrary to the interests of the work establishment. Termination of the employment contract is only one of them. A more severe consequence is seeking the payment of damages from the employee to cover the damage suffered by the employer.

Available preventive measures

Every company should apply preventive measures to avoid the situations described above. For example, the media have recently covered a case of an employee's disclosure of the source code which he had sent to ChatGPT. 

The first step should be to formulate appropriate in-house policies that will clarify what use of AI is allowed and what is not. Every employee must learn those policies already at the onboarding stage. 

In addition, confidential information should be properly secured and shared on a need-to-know basis. Technical issues are also important in this regard. 

If you want to protect yourself against a breach of your trade secret, please contact us. We can help you prepare the relevant regulations or provide training for your company.


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Karolina Sieraczek

Attorney at law (Poland)

Associate Partner

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