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Misuse of proprietary information

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Anson, a medium-sized company's product engineer, was one of the primary contributors to the design of an innovative electronic thermometer that later became the "lifeblood" of the company.  He left the company when it was taken over by another company.


Shortly after Anson joined another medical equipment company which was a major competitor of his former company, he discovered that his new employer intended to develop a new electronic thermometer.  He noticed that a slight modification of the former electronic thermometer would work well for his job. In order to impress his new employer, Anson decided to develop a new thermometer based on the product of his old company, disregarding that he had signed a confidential agreement with his former employer for not leaking the design of the product.

Case Analysis

Anson may contravene the Rules of Conduct of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE), which prohibit an engineer from making use of proprietary confidential information for personal gain.  When working with new clients or changing employment, an engineer has a moral obligation to honour confidential and proprietary information gained from his previous employment, particularly the specific business or technical information from clients or employers.


The Rules of Conduct of HKIE require an engineer to offer complete loyalty to his employer, past and present, in all business affairs and discharge his duties with integrity and in accordance with the highest standards of business ethics. An engineer is expected to properly credit the contributions of others in engineering practice.


Anson may risk facing lawsuits from his former employer by infringing intellectual property rights and breaching the confidential agreement signed in his previous employment.

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