The 2012 Taiwan International Lighting Show. (File photo/China Times)
Taiwan's legislators on Friday revised the Trade Secrets Act to give steeper punishments to those who obtain, use or leak trade secrets by illegal means.
The revised law adds criminal responsibility and raises fines significantly. Previously, those who leak trade secrets were punished under the Criminal Code, but the imprisonment terms and fines were insignificant.
The revision came as Taiwan is increasingly concerned about trade secrets being leaked to rival companies in China, including through the aggressive recruitment of its talent by Chinese competitors.
Under the revised law, those who infringe upon trade secrets will be slapped with up to five years imprisonment and could also face fines between NT$1 million and NT$10 million (US$34,000-$340,000). If the illegal gains of the violators surpass the maximum fines, they could be increased by up to three times.
In addition, for those who steal trade secrets with the intention of using them outside of Taiwan, the punishment will be even more severe, according to the revised act.
They will be subject to one year to 10 years imprisonment, as well as fines ranging from NT$3 million to NT$50 million (US$100,000-$1.7m).
If the violators' illegal gains surpass the maximum fines, they could be fined between two to 10 times of their illegal gains.
The revision was welcomed by major firms in Taiwan. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp (TSMC), the world's largest contract chipmaker, said that it is glad to see more protection of trade secrets.
Hon Hai Precision Industry (Foxconn), the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer, said that the law revision will serve as a deterrent and it hoped it could achieve substantive results in protecting enterprises.
Hon Hai chairman Terry Gou has previously said that the government's protection of intellectual property rights and patents have not been comprehensive, and that punishment has been too light. In addition to patent protection, there should also be rigorous regulations on luring talent from enterprises, Gou said.
Au Optronics Corp (AUO), one of the world's flat panel suppliers, which last year accused two former R&D executives of leaking trade secrets to competitor China Star Optoelectronics Technology, said that the revision of the law could help upgrade the industrial competitive edge.