1

Information

Information is not property. In Oxford v Moss10 a civil engineering student copied an examination paper and then returned it.11 The Court of Appeal quashed a conviction for theft as confidential information cannot be stolen.12 The protection of confidential information is found in civil law where injunctions can be obtained to prevent its revelation. It should be noted that the Computer Misuse Act 1990 creates special offences which deal with people accessing confidential information held on computers. →1 (p.558)

10 (1979) 68 Cr App R 183 (CA).
11Do not get any ideas!
12Law Commission Consultation Paper No. 150 (1997) suggested the creation of an offence of disclosing trade secrets.

I quote from the PDF mooted at footnote 12 above.

1.4 At present the criminal law gives no specific protection to trade secrets. In particular, trade secrets cannot, in law, be stolen: they do not constitute “property” for the purpose of the Theft Act 1968,11 section 1 of which defines the offence of theft as the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.

11 Notwithstanding that the Act defines property as including “money and all other property, real or personal, including things in action and other intangible property”: s 4(1). By contrast, a patent or an application for a patent is personal property (Patents Act 1977, s 30(1)) and so capable of being stolen.

s 4 is too long to quote here. This paper doesn't explain how it excludes trade secrets?

0
1

This paper doesn't explain how it excludes trade secrets?

In the context of the linked paper, "trade secrets" refers to intangible information, not physical items as can be shown by the example given at para 1.6:

For example, if a trade secret is on a sheet of paper, a wrongdoer who removes it may be liable for theft of the paper; but a person who merely memorises the secret, and subsequently misuses it, incurs no criminal liability.

This is almost identical to the circumstances in Oxford v Moss which determined that:

Information is not property.

And as such, it cannot be stolen in unlike some other jurisdictions referenced in the paper.

2

The reason is in your quote

... section 1 of which defines the offence of theft as the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.

I can take your IP (copyright, patent, etc.) and use it unlawfully, but I cannot deprive you of it. You are still able to use your IP even if I have dishonestly appropriated it - I might have "stolen" it, but I didn't commit theft in doing so.

1
  • 1
    Hi again Dale. Thanks. Would "appropriate" be a more appropriate term than "stolen" in your last sentence? – hims Mar 3 at 4:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.