Big Businesses Face Hefty Fines for Stealing Tech from Smaller Firms

Minister of SMEs and Start-ups Hong Jong-haak speaks in a meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul on Monday. /Yonhap

Big conglomerates that steal proprietary technology from small and mid-sized companies will face a fine 10 times the size of the damage, up from the present three times, to discourage them from writing off the cost.

The Ministry of SMEs and Start-ups and ruling Minjoo Party agreed to several measures on Monday to prevent big businesses from appropriating technology from smaller ones.

The government intends to apply a wider range of regulations to mete out harsher punishments to offenders. At present, big businesses are only required to pay for the damage incurred by small and mid-sized companies for tech-related violations.

But in future they will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement when receiving blueprints and patented data from small and mid-sized companies.

"We are seeking to prohibit big businesses from demanding classified and proprietary technology from small and mid-sized companies either by e-mail or in person, which is common practice," SME and Start-ups Minister Hong Jong-haak said. "Violators will face criminal charges."