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Sekretessavtals verkningar och effekter i skiljeförfarande

Lindwall, Emma LU (2011) JURM01 20111
Department of Law
Abstract (Swedish)
Vid avtalsförhandlingar mellan privata näringsidkare kan det vara nödvändigt att utlämna hemlig information för att avtal ska kunna komma till stånd. Information och kunskap utgör ofta centrala tillgångar i ett företag och möjligheten att skydda sådana tillgångar i avtalsförhållanden kan vara av avgörande betydelse vid affärsuppgörelser. I detta avseende spelar sekretessavtal en viktig roll inom näringslivet. Uppkommer det en skiljetvist rörande kontraktsförhållandet kan parterna ha ett intresse av att låta sekretessavtalet få fortsatt genomslag och uppsatsens primära syfte är att utreda vilken betydelse ett sekretessavtal kommer att få i ett skiljeförfarande, i synnerhet vilka civilrättsliga och processrättsliga verkningar och effekter... (More)
Vid avtalsförhandlingar mellan privata näringsidkare kan det vara nödvändigt att utlämna hemlig information för att avtal ska kunna komma till stånd. Information och kunskap utgör ofta centrala tillgångar i ett företag och möjligheten att skydda sådana tillgångar i avtalsförhållanden kan vara av avgörande betydelse vid affärsuppgörelser. I detta avseende spelar sekretessavtal en viktig roll inom näringslivet. Uppkommer det en skiljetvist rörande kontraktsförhållandet kan parterna ha ett intresse av att låta sekretessavtalet få fortsatt genomslag och uppsatsens primära syfte är att utreda vilken betydelse ett sekretessavtal kommer att få i ett skiljeförfarande, i synnerhet vilka civilrättsliga och processrättsliga verkningar och effekter som följer av ett sådant avtal vid en tvist.

Inledningsvis diskuteras avsikten med sekretessavtal samt vilket skydd för hemlig information som näringsidkare erhåller i form av lagstiftning och allmänna rättsgrundsatser. Slutsatsen som nås beträffande möjliga avsikter med att ingå avtal om sekretess, är att sådana avtal huvudsakligen ingås för att skydda hemlig information, samt för att kontrollera hur den informationen används. Vidare behandlas det skydd som FHL och den allmänna lojalitetsplikten inom kontraktsrätten tillhandahåller för hemlig information. Utredningen visar att räckvidden, av såväl den allmänna tystnadsplikten som av begreppet företagshemlighet, är oklar och det föreligger således en osäkerhet kring hur långt skyldigheten att hemlighålla information sträcker sig och vilken information som kommer att skyddas. Vad gäller frågan om det föreligger en allmän tystnadsplikt för part i skiljeförfarande, uttalade HD i NJA 2000 s 538 att det krävs ett särskilt avtal om sekretess för att parterna ska anses ha en skyldighet att inte yppa något som rör skiljetvisten.

Ett sekretessavtals processuella verkningar diskuteras utifrån skiljeförfarandets processuella ramverk och parternas möjlighet att hemlighålla information, samt att reglera i vilken utsträckning sekretessbelagd information får åberopas som bevisning. Genom att välja skiljeförfarande som tvistlösningsform kan parterna i huvudsak kontrollera förfarandet och försäkra sig om att sekretess kommer att upprätthållas. Begär någon av parterna bevisupptagning inför allmän domstol förlorar emellertid parterna denna kontroll. Mot bakgrund av offentlighetsprincipens starka ställning i svensk rättsordning, samt den skyddsreglering som redan återfinns i lag, kommer sekretessavtal således inte att få några verkningar vid domstols medverkan i skiljetvisten. I stället får parterna förlita sig på att domstolen tillämpar det regelverk som kan ge skydd för information som anses skyddsvärd enligt RB och OSL. Avstår rätten från att tillämpa någon av skyddsbestämmelserna blir innehållet i förebringad bevisning offentlig och tillgänglig för envar. För part innebär detta att den avtalade sekretessförpliktelsen bryts i den del som omfattar den åberopade informationen.

Om det finns en risk att part bryter mot sekretessförpliktelsen genom att föra in sekretessbelagd information som bevisning i tvisten, kan sekretessavtalet påverka parts möjlighet att föra sin talan. Utan att direkt ange det i avtalet, skulle således rent civilrättsliga sekretessavtal kunna få processrättsliga implikationer i form av bevisreglering. En sådan möjlighet torde vara störst i en skiljetvist, eftersom skiljeförfarandet präglas av principen om partsautonomi. Partsautonomins genomslag vad gäller reglering av bevisföring begränsas emellertid av den kontradiktoriska principen, enligt vilken part måste beredas erforderlig möjlighet att föra sin talan. I annat fall utgör skiljemännens beslut att avvisa sekretessbelagd information en klandergrund. För att undvika klandertalan diskuteras möjligheten för skiljenämnden att godta åberopad bevisning, för att sedan tillmäta den ett lägre bevisvärde med hänvisning till den gemensamma partsviljan att hålla sekretessbelagd information fortsatt hemlig och inom avtalsförhållandet. Vid bevisupptagning inför domstol är en domstol inte bunden av parternas gemensamma vilja att hemlighålla viss information och en invändning från part att sekretessbelagd information inte får åberopas kommer följaktligen inte att få något genomslag.

Vidare innehåller uppsatsen en diskussion kring vilka civilrättsliga verkningar ett sekretessavtal kan ge upphov till och i synnerhet huruvida åberopande av sekretessbelagd information som bevisning kan utgöra kontraktsbrott, samt grunda ersättningsanspråk enligt allmänna kontraktsrättsliga och skadeståndsrättsliga principer. Enligt principen att processhandlingar inte ska få några verkningar utanför den process i vilka de företagits, bör ett införande av hemlig information, åtminstone som utgångspunkt, inte utgöra grund för ersättningsskyldighet. Med hänsyn till de processuella rättssäkerhetsgarantier som genomsyrar ett rättsligt förfarande enligt svensk rätt, torde det vara svårt att påvisa att det har uppkommit en av rättsordningen erkänd skada i sådana situationer. Dock diskuteras möjligheten att argumentera för ersättningsansvar vid uppenbara missbruk av rätten att föra sin talan. Som exempel anges situationer i vilka det är uppenbart att part åberopat sekretessbelagd information i syfte att bryta ett sekretessåtagande och bevisningen tydligt saknat relevans för tvistefrågan eller part haft möjlighet att åberopa annan bevisning till stöd för sin talan.

Avslutningsvis konstateras att parterna har en begränsad möjlighet att påverka de processuella ramarna i ett skiljeförfarande, i synnerhet vid bevisupptagning i domstol, något som har stor betydelse för vilka verkningar och effekter ett sekretessavtal får i händelse av tvist. Bland svårigheterna märks främst frågan i vilken omfattning den grundläggande civilrättsliga avtalsfriheten begränsas av att det i svensk rättsordning uppställs vissa grundläggande processuella garantier, vilka måste tillförsäkras parterna. Mot bakgrund av att ett sekretessavtals processuella verkningar i skiljeförfarande är begränsade, torde avtalet få störst praktiskt effekt i form av påtryckningsmedel gentemot parterna och sålunda utgöra incitament att låta tystnadsplikten styra deras handlande om tvist uppstår. (Less)
Abstract
In contract negotiations between commercial parties, it may be necessary to disclose confidential information to establish a contractual relationship. Information and knowledge are often key assets of a business, and the ability to protect these assets may be crucial for the contracting parties. In this respect, confidentiality agreements play an important role in commercial relationships. In the event of a dispute regarding the contractual relationship, the parties have an interest in letting the confidentiality agreement have an impact in the litigation process. The main focus of this study is to examine the extent to which arbitrators or a court will take a confidentiality agreement into account and, in particular, the civil and... (More)
In contract negotiations between commercial parties, it may be necessary to disclose confidential information to establish a contractual relationship. Information and knowledge are often key assets of a business, and the ability to protect these assets may be crucial for the contracting parties. In this respect, confidentiality agreements play an important role in commercial relationships. In the event of a dispute regarding the contractual relationship, the parties have an interest in letting the confidentiality agreement have an impact in the litigation process. The main focus of this study is to examine the extent to which arbitrators or a court will take a confidentiality agreement into account and, in particular, the civil and procedural consequences and general effects of such an agreement in a dispute.

Initially, the purpose of confidentiality agreements is discussed, as well as the protection of confidential information granted by law and general principles of law. The conclusion reached, is that confidentiality agreements are mainly entered into in order to protect information in contractual relationships and to control how the information is used. In addition, the protection provided by FHL and the general duty of confidentiality, as an outcome of the principle of good faith in contract law, is looked into. The inquiry shows that the scope, of both the general duty of confidentiality and the concept of trade secrets, could be questioned. Thus, it is uncertain how far the duty to keep information confidential extends, and due to this uncertainty, there is also a risk that some confidential information may not fall under the protection. However, in NJA 2000 p 538 the Supreme Court held that under Swedish law there is no general duty of confidentiality in arbitral proceedings unless the parties enter into a specific agreement of confidentiality.

The procedural effects of a confidentiality agreement are discussed in relation to the framework of arbitral proceedings, the parties’ ability to protect confidential information as well as to regulate the extent to which such information may be used as evidence. By choosing arbitration as the dispute resolution form, the parties may exercise more control over the procedure to ensure that confidentiality will be maintained. If one of the parties makes a request for evidence to be taken by a civil court, the parties lose this control. In the light of the Swedish principle of public access, and the protection of confidential information provided by civil procedural rules, the confidentiality agreement will not have any impact in the case of a civil court’s assistance in arbitral proceedings. Instead, the parties have to rely upon the court’s decision to apply the procedural rules in RB and OSL to provide protection for confidential information. If the court waives to apply any of these protection rules, the content of the evidence provided is considered public, and therefore, accessible to anyone. This means, that the duty of confidentiality is considered broken in respect of that part of the agreement.

If there is a risk that a party will breach the confidentiality agreement by presenting confidential information as evidence, there is a possibility that the contract will affect the party’s ability to effectively make their case and to introduce evidence in the dispute. In this respect, the confidentiality agreement, as a purely civil agreement, will have procedural implications in terms of restrictions on evidence. Since arbitral proceedings are characterized by the principle of party autonomy, there is a greater possibility that an arbitration tribunal will allow agreements limiting a party’s right to introduce evidence. However, the principle of party autonomy is limited by the adversarial principle, i.e. a party must be given sufficient opportunity to present their case. Otherwise, the arbitrator’s decision to reject confidential information as evidence could constitute a right to appeal the arbitral award. In order to avoid such an appeal, the possibility of the tribunal to accept the evidence is discussed, and to give confidential information a lower value when assessing the evidence, with reference to the common will of the parties to keep such information confidential. On the contrary, a court will not be bound by the parties’ common interest of keeping certain information confidential. An objection made by a party, that confidential information shall be rejected, would therefore not be considered by the court.

Furthermore, the thesis contains a discussion of possible civil effects of confidentiality agreements and, in particular, whether an introduction of confidential information as evidence constitutes a breach of contract. According to the principle that a party’s actions within the proceeding shall not be given any effect outside the process in which they are undertaken, the introduction of confidential information as evidence, at least in most cases, will not provide a basis for liability. Due to the procedural safeguards that govern judicial proceedings, it will be difficult to prove that a legally recognized damage has occurred. It is, however, possible to argue for liability in cases where it is evident that a party has only introduced confidential information as evidence in order to break the duty of confidentiality, and where it is equally evident that the evidence introduced is irrelevant to the question in dispute.

The conclusion reached is that the parties have a limited ability to influence the procedural framework of arbitral proceedings, particularly when assistance of the court is required. These limitations have great significance for the impact and effects of confidentiality agreements in civil litigation. Hence, the fundamental principle of freedom of contract is limited by the fact that Swedish law imposes certain fundamental procedural safeguards, which must be guaranteed. The conclusion is therefore that confidential agreements probably have more of a practical effect by constituting an incentive for the parties to let the duty of confidentiality govern their conduct in the event of civil litigation. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Lindwall, Emma LU
supervisor
organization
alternative title
Legal consequences and general effects of confidentiality agreements in arbitration
course
JURM01 20111
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
Avtalsrätt, Processrätt
language
Swedish
id
1785041
date added to LUP
2011-02-09 14:28:30
date last changed
2011-02-09 14:28:30
@misc{1785041,
  abstract     = {In contract negotiations between commercial parties, it may be necessary to disclose confidential information to establish a contractual relationship. Information and knowledge are often key assets of a business, and the ability to protect these assets may be crucial for the contracting parties. In this respect, confidentiality agreements play an important role in commercial relationships. In the event of a dispute regarding the contractual relationship, the parties have an interest in letting the confidentiality agreement have an impact in the litigation process. The main focus of this study is to examine the extent to which arbitrators or a court will take a confidentiality agreement into account and, in particular, the civil and procedural consequences and general effects of such an agreement in a dispute. 

Initially, the purpose of confidentiality agreements is discussed, as well as the protection of confidential information granted by law and general principles of law. The conclusion reached, is that confidentiality agreements are mainly entered into in order to protect information in contractual relationships and to control how the information is used. In addition, the protection provided by FHL and the general duty of confidentiality, as an outcome of the principle of good faith in contract law, is looked into. The inquiry shows that the scope, of both the general duty of confidentiality and the concept of trade secrets, could be questioned. Thus, it is uncertain how far the duty to keep information confidential extends, and due to this uncertainty, there is also a risk that some confidential information may not fall under the protection. However, in NJA 2000 p 538 the Supreme Court held that under Swedish law there is no general duty of confidentiality in arbitral proceedings unless the parties enter into a specific agreement of confidentiality. 

The procedural effects of a confidentiality agreement are discussed in relation to the framework of arbitral proceedings, the parties’ ability to protect confidential information as well as to regulate the extent to which such information may be used as evidence. By choosing arbitration as the dispute resolution form, the parties may exercise more control over the procedure to ensure that confidentiality will be maintained. If one of the parties makes a request for evidence to be taken by a civil court, the parties lose this control. In the light of the Swedish principle of public access, and the protection of confidential information provided by civil procedural rules, the confidentiality agreement will not have any impact in the case of a civil court’s assistance in arbitral proceedings. Instead, the parties have to rely upon the court’s decision to apply the procedural rules in RB and OSL to provide protection for confidential information. If the court waives to apply any of these protection rules, the content of the evidence provided is considered public, and therefore, accessible to anyone. This means, that the duty of confidentiality is considered broken in respect of that part of the agreement. 

If there is a risk that a party will breach the confidentiality agreement by presenting confidential information as evidence, there is a possibility that the contract will affect the party’s ability to effectively make their case and to introduce evidence in the dispute. In this respect, the confidentiality agreement, as a purely civil agreement, will have procedural implications in terms of restrictions on evidence. Since arbitral proceedings are characterized by the principle of party autonomy, there is a greater possibility that an arbitration tribunal will allow agreements limiting a party’s right to introduce evidence. However, the principle of party autonomy is limited by the adversarial principle, i.e. a party must be given sufficient opportunity to present their case. Otherwise, the arbitrator’s decision to reject confidential information as evidence could constitute a right to appeal the arbitral award. In order to avoid such an appeal, the possibility of the tribunal to accept the evidence is discussed, and to give confidential information a lower value when assessing the evidence, with reference to the common will of the parties to keep such information confidential. On the contrary, a court will not be bound by the parties’ common interest of keeping certain information confidential. An objection made by a party, that confidential information shall be rejected, would therefore not be considered by the court. 

Furthermore, the thesis contains a discussion of possible civil effects of confidentiality agreements and, in particular, whether an introduction of confidential information as evidence constitutes a breach of contract. According to the principle that a party’s actions within the proceeding shall not be given any effect outside the process in which they are undertaken, the introduction of confidential information as evidence, at least in most cases, will not provide a basis for liability. Due to the procedural safeguards that govern judicial proceedings, it will be difficult to prove that a legally recognized damage has occurred. It is, however, possible to argue for liability in cases where it is evident that a party has only introduced confidential information as evidence in order to break the duty of confidentiality, and where it is equally evident that the evidence introduced is irrelevant to the question in dispute. 

The conclusion reached is that the parties have a limited ability to influence the procedural framework of arbitral proceedings, particularly when assistance of the court is required. These limitations have great significance for the impact and effects of confidentiality agreements in civil litigation. Hence, the fundamental principle of freedom of contract is limited by the fact that Swedish law imposes certain fundamental procedural safeguards, which must be guaranteed. The conclusion is therefore that confidential agreements probably have more of a practical effect by constituting an incentive for the parties to let the duty of confidentiality govern their conduct in the event of civil litigation.},
  author       = {Lindwall, Emma},
  keyword      = {Avtalsrätt,Processrätt},
  language     = {swe},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Sekretessavtals verkningar och effekter i skiljeförfarande},
  year         = {2011},
}