Search for:

In brief

How can you protect your business and trade secrets in Austria?

On 20 July 2023, the Austrian National Council passed a significant increase in penalties for the violation of business and trade secrets. This was necessary due to a significant increase in secrecy violations.

Business and trade secrets are information of high commercial value. Therefore, business and trade secrets are usually protected by comprehensive confidentiality agreements.

The Austrian Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch (StGB)) and the Unfair Competition Act (Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb (UWG)) had already made the violation of business and trade secrets subject to criminal penalties. The legislator has now significantly increased these penalties. The amendments will come into force on 1 September 2023.

The most important changes are as follows:

1.    Increase in penalties

In future, violations of business and trade secrets (Section 122 of the Austrian Criminal Code) will be punishable by up to two years in prison. Anyone who commits the act in order to gain a pecuniary advantage may face a prison sentence of up to three years.

In the case of gathering information about business and trade secrets (Section 123 of the Austrian Criminal Code), the prison sentence is increased to a maximum of three years. If the act is committed for the benefit of another state or a foreign company, the prison sentence could be up to five years.

In addition, the unauthorized exploitation of business and trade secrets by employees (Section 11 of the Unfair Competition Act) will be sanctioned by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine of up to 720 daily rates . This sanction also applies to the improper exploitation of business and trade secrets by persons outside the company who are entrusted with templates (e.g., models, patterns or lists) or technical regulations (technical descriptions) as part of their business relationship.

Shift of court jurisdiction

The increase in the penalties in the Austrian Criminal Code automatically leads to a shift in court jurisdiction. Thus, in the future, the single judge of the regional court will be responsible for secrecy violations. For offenses under Sections 11 and 12 of the Unfair Competition Act, the regional court’s own jurisdiction in the main proceedings is expressly determined.

2.    Exemption of the aggrieved company from the cost risk

In future, criminal prosecution by the public prosecutor’s office can be carried out with the authorization of the person concerned (authorization offense). The aggrieved company will therefore still have the option of deciding whether a criminal prosecution should take place at all. At the same time, however, the aggrieved company will also be relieved of the previous cost risk.   

Our recommendation

Companies are advised to take the increased penalties as an opportunity to develop internal protective measures and train employees on the importance of the protection of business and trade secrets. For example, comprehensive and indefinite confidentiality agreements in employment contracts are just as essential as contractual penalties for disclosing business and trade secrets.

German version


Philipp Maier is partner and head of the Baker McKenzie Employment Law Practice Group in Vienna. He joined Baker McKenzie Austria in 2009 as associate of the employment law practice group. Prior to that Philipp worked for several years in the employment law department of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and in the litigation department of Wolf Theiss Rechtsanwälte. He also completed an internship at Aichelin Heat Treatment Systems (Detroit, USA).


Mag. Simone Liebmann-Slatin, MSc. joined Baker McKenzie as a partner in 2003. Since 2011, Ms. Liebmann-Slatin is a senior counsel in the Vienna office and is a member of the employment law practice group. She regularly delivers presentations on issues related to employment law in Austria, and is an active contributor to various publications, webinars and workshops.


Andrea Haiden is Senior Associate in Vienna and has over eight years of legal experience in Employment Law. She has a strong focus on multinational clients of all industrial levels and advises them on all aspects of employment law in domestic and international context alike.
Her fields of expertise concern employment and pension related work in transactional projects, including post-integration work, restructurings, negotiations with employee representative bodies, employment related compliance and litigation matters, cross-border employment and immigration, as well as compensation matters. Andrea Haiden is currently doing her dissertation on transactional aspects of pension schemes at the University of Vienna.


Nesrin Yildirim is a junior associate in Baker McKenzie’s Public Procurement Practice Group in Vienna and joined the Firm in January 2023. Prior to joining Baker McKenzie, she worked at an Austrian firm as legal administrator and completed her legal clerkship at various courts in Austria. She completed her master's degree at the Vienna University of Economics and Business and gained valuable experience in a renowned law firm in Istanbul.

Write A Comment