The state information technology department has slapped a fine of Rs 30 lakh on a company for data theft. Principal Secretary (IT) Rajesh Aggarwal, who is an adjudicating officer under the IT act, held the promoters of a firm, which provides diagnostic services and therapeutic guidance regarding newborn babies for genetic disorders at birth, guilty of stealing technical data from their ex-employer.
The order dated January 20 is the outcome of a complaint by Preventine Life Care Pvt Ltd, which claims to be the only service provider in this segment in India for years and has undertaken research and developed various parameters that are important for correct analysis of data.
The company had employed Dr Rishi Dixit and Vrushali Joshi as a senior manager and head of the division of diagnostic services respectively and provided access to sensitive information, trade secrets, formulas, diagnostic procedures, and business policy.
“Complainant came to know that, respondent no 1 and 2 being in the employment have promoted a company (Navigene Genetic Science Pvt Ltd) in competition of the Complainant Company,” it said, adding that an internal probe revealed that some sensitive information and data was illegally transferred to their individual accounts and storage device.
It alleged that they had even copied grammatical errors and also used completely identical metabolic marker names. Preventine has also filed a private criminal complaint with JMFC, Vashi, lodged a police complaint and initiated civil proceedings. The police submitted that the diagnostic software had been illegally copied by the respondents.
However, the respondents alleged that the complaint had been filed with a “malafide intention solely to harass the Respondents” and prevent them from carrying on their business. “This technology was never developed by the Complainant or by anyone else in the country and the same is freely available on the internet and can also be found in various research papers... This technology can never be patented and copyrighted and this is in use for over four decades world over,” they claimed, denying that the complainant had “exclusive rights” over the technology.
They also rejected allegations of data theft and access to sensitive information.
In his order, Aggarwal said “it is clear that some employees of Complainant Company opened a rival company, while they were still serving in the complainant company. This was against the Agreement/Contract/Terms of employment.” He held that the complainant company did a lot of original research and development and added that the respondents “have constantly dodged the question, whether their Report formats and processes of the company they set up are total copy of the complainant company.”
“... I hold all three respondents guilty of data theft...” said Aggarwal in his order, asking Navigene, which is “reaping the profits from stolen goods” to pay damages of Rs 30 lakh by way of compensation to the complainant, within a month of the order, failing which compound interest of 12% compounded monthly will be chargeable.
Grammatical errors were copied too
Preventine alleged that Navigene had even copied grammatical errors and also used completely identical metabolic marker names. Preventine has also filed a private criminal complaint with JMFC, Vashi, lodged a police complaint and initiated civil proceedings. The police said that the diagnostic software had been illegally copied by the respondents.