Polish regulations on the protection of trade secrets

October 9th, 2008, Tomasz Rychlicki

I. Definitions
There is no definition of “trade secrets” in Polish law. However, there are regulations that allow for very effective protection.

II. The law
The main sources of binding laws in the Republic of Poland are the Constitution of 2 April 1997, acts passed by the Parliament, ratified international treaties and regulations issued, for example, by the Prime Minister or the Council of Ministers – Polish government. Regulations are issued for the purpose of implementation of acts.

II.A. Unfiar competition
Act on Combating Unfair Competition – CUC – (in Polish: Ustawa o zwalczaniu nieuczciwej konkurencji) of 16 April 1993, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 47, item 211, with later amendments.

Article 11
An act of unfair competition is the transfer, disclosure or use of third party information, which is company confidential or their receipt from an unauthorised person, if it threatens or violates the interests of the entrepreneur.
2. The provisions of section 1 shall also apply to the person who has been rendering work based on employment contract or another legal relation, for the period of three years from its expiration, unless the contract stipulates otherwise or there is no longer secrecy.
3. The provisions of section 1 shall not apply to the person who, bona fide, by way of a legal operation against payment, acquired the information constituting a business secrecy. The court may oblige the acquirer to the appropriate remuneration for its use, nevertheless for a period not longer than duration of secrecy.
4. Company confidentiality is understood to include the entrepreneur’s technical, technological organisational or other information having commercial value, which is not disclosed to the public to which the entrepreneur has taken the necessary steps to maintain confidentiality.
Chapter 4
Penal provisions
Article 23.1. Every person, who contrary to her obligation towards the entrepreneur discloses to another person or uses in her own economic activity information which is a business secrecy, shall be liable to the fine, probation or imprisonment up to 2 years, provided it is to the significant detriment of the entrepreneur.
2. The same sanctions shall apply to the person, who having acquired illegally the business secrecy, discloses it to another person or uses in her own economic activity.

It is noteworthy that definition of “company confidentiality” provided in article 11(4) CUC explicitly included “trade secrets” term before amendments in 2002. The CUC protection of “company confidentiality” can be enforced in civil or crminal proceedings. However, regulations afforded in the CUC basically apply only to relations between entrepreneurs (commercial relationships).

II.B. Civil Code
The Civil Code – CC – (in Polish: Kodeks Cywilny) of 23 April 1964, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 16, item 93, with later amendments.

Article 72 [1]. § 1. If during the negotiations, a party has provided information as confidential, the other party is required not to disclose and not to transfer of such information to others and not to use such information for its own purposes, unless the parties otherwise agreed.
§ 2 In the event of failure of performance or improper performance of duties as described in § 1, the entitled person may demand from the other party to undo the damages or to return profits received by the other party.

II.C. Criminal Code
The Criminal Code – CRC – (in Polish: Kodeks Karny) of 6 June 1997, Journal of Laws (Dziennik Ustaw) No 88, item 553, with later amendments.

Chapter XXXIII. Crimes against protection of information
Article 267.
§ 1. Whoever, without being authorised to do so, acquires information not destined for him, by opening a sealed letter, or connecting to a wire that transmits information or by breaching electronic, magnetic or other special protection for that information shall be subject to a fine, the penalty of restriction of liberty or the penalty of deprivation of liberty for up to 2 years.
§ 2. The same punishment shall be imposed on anyone, who, in order to acquire information to which he is not authorised to access, installs or uses tapping, visual detection or other special equipment.
§ 3. The same punishment shall be imposed on anyone, who imparts to another person the information obtained in the manner specified in § 1 or 2 discloses to another person.
§ 4. The prosecution of the offence specified in § 1 – 3 shall occur on a motion of the injured person.

The mentioned above regulations are the basic. There are some other legal acts that govern specific fields of law. For instance the Act on Acountancy, the Code of Commercial Companies, the Code of Labour, the Act on Banks Law etc.