Last edited 01 Apr 2016

Proprietary information

Black’s Law Dictionary defines ‘proprietary’ as meaning:

  • Of, or relating to, a proprietor.
  • Of, relating to, or holding as property.

Proprietary information is information such as financial data, test results or trade secrets that is viewed as the holder’s property and that they wish to keep from becoming public knowledge.

For information to be considered proprietary, it should not be readily available in public sources, it should provide some sort of competitive advantage, and the company should take every reasonable step to maintain its confidentiality. This may include developing security systems to protect proprietary information from the increasing threat of cyber-hacking. More companies are now appointing information managers to assume responsibility for keeping such information safe and secure.

This can be an issue on construction projects, where members of the project team, or the client, may learn information that one party wishes to stay confidential. Submitting tender proposals for example may require the provision of detailed cost information, and descriptions of technologies and methodologies. This may include information that suppliers would not wish to be shared with their competitors.

As a result, organisations or employees with access to such information may be required to non-disclosure agreements or confidentiality agreements that can limit the use of ideas and information for a specific purpose for a certain period of time. They may protect information recorded in a certain form, perhaps marked as ‘confidential’, or they may protect information shared under certain circumstances, such as in presentations or meetings, or during the course of employment or consultancy. They can be used to prevent commercially sensitive information from being shared, or to prevent parties from communicating certain information to the press or other third parties.

Non-disclosure agreements can cover information such as:

  • Intellectual property.
  • Commercial or trading information.
  • Technical drawings or designs.
  • Business plans.
  • Customer and potential customer lists.
  • Mathematical and chemical formulae.
  • Trade secrets which could include a formulae, programmes or processes.
  • Personal information about individuals involved in a project
  • Non-patentable know-how.

See Non-disclosure agreement for more information.

Some information may also be subject intellectual property rights such as; copyright, trademarks, patents, and other design rights.

Forms of appointment generally give the client a licence to use information such as a design for the purposes it was intended. This may include use of the design by other team members. The situation with Level 2 building information modelling is similar, but the position in relation to Level 3, where the entire team work on a single model is less clear.

See Intellectual property and Copyright for more information.

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