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2011年1月18日 (火)

ルノー情報流出 日本の電気自動車技術を守れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 18, 2011)
Japan's EV expertise must be protected
ルノー情報流出 日本の電気自動車技術を守れ(1月17日付・読売社説)

It has recently been revealed that leading French carmaker Renault has suffered a leak of sensitive information about its electric vehicle technology.

Carmakers around the world are scrambling to develop zero-emission electric vehicles that are expected to be front and center among next-generation eco-cars. If the allegations about the Renault leak are proven true, it would be a shocking case of industrial espionage.

Renault has filed a criminal complaint on the case with French legal authorities. We hope French authorities conduct a thorough investigation to get to the bottom of this case.

Renault is the largest shareholder of Nissan Motor Co., and the two carmakers have jointly developed electric vehicles. In December, Nissan started selling its Leaf electric vehicle in Japan and the United States. Renault plans to roll out an EV this year.

Three Renault executives are suspected of leaking information including data about the vehicle's body structure and prices. Renault says information on the vehicle's core technologies such as lithium ion batteries were not leaked. But what actually happened?

French media have reported that the three executives are suspected of receiving generous rewards in return for leaking the data to Chinese firms.

Lessons to be learned

There could be grave consequences if it is proven that Japan's cutting-edge technology has been leaked to China via a foreign company that is a business partner of a Japanese firm.

Leaks of secret data also have been reported at a French auto parts maker, among others. While each French maker should naturally strengthen its protection and administration of secret information, we also urge the French authorities to bolster their investigations into infringements of intellectual assets.

The Japanese government and companies must learn lessons from the Renault case.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. became the first major automaker to market an electric vehicle when it released its i-MiEV in the summer of 2009. Nissan followed suit last year, and Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. plan to launch electric vehicles next year. Japanese carmakers are leading the global EV market.

Their rivals in the United States, Europe and China have been cranking up their efforts to develop EVs, joining in the battle for eco-car supremacy. Depending on who emerges victorious in this competition, the power balance among carmakers could change dramatically.

Stay alert against espionage

With the stakes being so high, it is essential that Japanese firms protect their state-of-the-art technologies to maintain their competitive edge. They also need to stay on guard against industrial espionage and ensure they have structures in place to protect Japan's high-tech information not only on electric vehicles but also on other technologies, such as electronics.

To prevent leaks, companies must block all outside access to key technologies and maintain airtight data control.

To make it easier to crack down on infringement of corporate secrets, the government bolstered the Unfair Competition Prevention Law last summer by adopting tougher punitive measures.

Concerted efforts by the private and public sectors will be required to defend the technological information that sustains Japan's manufacturing industry.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 17, 2011)
(2011年1月17日00時58分  読売新聞)


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