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9.4 Secrecy in a Company

Secrecy is indispensable to a company in the same manner as to religion. In a company, secret functions as a form of property. In particular, trade secrets are critical to the company's business and operations. It is also critical to protect trade secrets with the globalization of economy and the increase in employee mobility. Trade secret leaks can be attributed to many factors. However, in many cases, trade secrets are leaked via a current or former employee. In order to hold a prominent position in the market, it is important for a company to protect trade secrets.

According to the Unfair Competition Prevention Act of Japan, “trade secret” means “technical or business information useful for commercial activities such as manufacturing or marketing methods that is kept secret and that is not publicly known” (Article 2, Paragraph 6). In the Economic Espionage Act of 1966 of the United States, “trade secret” is defined as:

all forms and types of…information…if -(A) the owner thereof has taken reasonable measures to keep such information secret; and (B) the information derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable through proper means by, the public…. (18 U.S.C. § 1839 (3))

Needless to say, it is important for companies to prevent leaks of trade secrets. In addition, intellectual property strategy will be required. What I mean by “intellectual property” here is a broader concept which includes not only intellectual property right itself but also technology or know-how without any right.

In order for Japanese companies to survive in the competitive market, Ogawa (2014) proposes “open and close strategy” as an intellectual property strategy. It is the strategy that companies divide up their business domains into open and close areas. In the close area, by concealing their intellectual properties and acquiring patents, companies intend to secure their market share. On the other hand, in the open area, companies open their technologies and know-how to other companies. The openness makes it easy for companies to spread their products. The closeness makes it easy for companies to increase their market share and to secure their competitive advantage by defining the core area in their products and technologies in order to seek differentiation vis-à-vis other companies. For example, Apple Inc. opens manufacturing processes of smart phone to EMS (electronic manufacturing services) companies. On the other hand, Apple closes its know-how and technologies of smart phone by obtaining design rights and patents of touch panel technologies. Intel Corp. also opens the production technology of computer peripheral devises and closes the architecture of MPU (micro-processing unit), which is the very core of computer, as a black box.

The open and close strategy in a company is suggestive and helpful for understanding the management of secret in a religious organization touched upon in the previous section. It is also important for religious organizations to define the close domain, which rank-and-file believers cannot access, and the open domain, which believers can access according to the stages of religious training. In this meaning, the open and close strategy in religion is useful for preventing the inflation of religious power.

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