Watch Out when Co-Working!

Created by Dr. Christian Engelhardt | |  Labor Law

Inventions, Works and Trade Secrets in Co-Working Spaces

Co-Working has become a trend, especially among startups and especially in creative or technology-driven sectors. The advantages are obvious: flexibility, lower cost, reliably accessible infrastructure and last but not least the opportunity to informally cooperate, network and communicate.

However, in particular those businesses for which such work environments make the most sense require increased caution. The usually open-plan concept of these spaces and the informal, casual setting open the floodgates for unregulated access to other users’ confidential information and development results. In addition, some users may not be fully aware of the associated risks. As a result they might unintentionally – and often unnoticed – jeopardize their developments and their economic value. Such risk can generally be avoided.

Users of co-working spaces should comply with some basic security measures, such as locking their screens when not in use, not leaving printouts in communal printers and ensuring that other users cannot easily view their workspace and monitors. Furthermore, they would be well advised to carefully consider which of their information and development results must remain strictly confidential, for example, because they contain patentable inventions or trade secrets. In both cases, confidentiality is a prerequisite for protection. Likewise, it is advisable to keep confidential any potentially copyrightable works such as concepts, business plans, software, etc., at least as a precautionary measure. This is due to the fact that copyright protection does not require secrecy; however, such material might at the same time contain or constitute trade secrets which can often be replicated relatively easily without such replication necessarily constituting a copyright infringement.

Eventually, when choosing a co-working space, users of such open work environments should carefully examine whether the provider/landlord has established appropriate security measures, for example, access restrictions, etc. and whether he complies with legal requirements, inter alia pursuant to data protection laws.

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