Nokia, Finland – A district court in Finland has sentenced ten former Nokian Tyres employees charged with “violation and abuse” of the company’s “secrets”, in what has been described by the Finnish tire maker as the “largest business secrecy case that Finland has seen.”
Ex-Nokian employees sentenced for 'violating secrets'
In a 31 Aug statement, Nokian said the former employees were now working for another Finland-based company, Black Donuts Engineering Oy, which offers tire consulting services.
According to the release, the district court of Pirkanmaa convicted all defendants, which included four companies and ten individuals, with eight individuals sentenced to conditional imprisonment of 6-18 months and two fined.
The managing director and two other executives from Black Donuts Engineering were sentenced to business prohibitions of 3–5 years in addition to imprisonment, the press release added.
The ten individuals had resigned from Nokian between 2010 and 2011.
“They were charged with the theft of tens of thousands of records containing Nokian Tyres’ business secrets (related to tire technology and product development, for example) and their utilisation in competing business,” said the release.
Nokian also added that Black Donuts had been made to pay €300,000 in fines imposed on corporation, €537,500 in loss of benefits to the state. The defendants were also obliged to pay over €600,000 in legal expenses to Nokian Tyres.
In correspondence with ERJ, Black Donuts president and CEO Kai Hauvala confirmed the court ruling saying his company had been part of a legal dispute related to alleged benefits from knowledge and materials under trade secrets belonging to Nokian Tyres Plc.
"Has this case been a financial burden? Of course, to some extent, but in the end BDE’s operations continue unhindered with strong financial basis... The legal case has not affected our customer acquisition in any way," Hauvala said, playing down the verdict.
Hauvala stated that the prosecution had sought over €20 million in compensation, adding his company had avoided "worst scenarios".
According to the district court’s verdict, Nokian Tyres had been exposed to risk of loss; however, "since the damage caused could not be unambiguously demonstrated, no reparations were imposed."
“This case has been processed since 2011, so we are happy that a decision has finally been reached and all defendants have been convicted. The decision documents and their appendices contain more than 300 pages, so we will study them carefully and form our final opinion later on”, said Hille Korhonen, president and CEO for Nokian Tyres.
Nokian said it would reserve the right appeal in the case.