Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Supplier non-confidential information – can you and should you share it?

In another forum a procurement person asked whether they could share one supplier’s specifications with another supplier. Aside from the ethics of doing this, before you share any information that you received from one party with another party you need to do your research.

The first question to ask is under what conditions did I received the information? Many times a company may require a non-disclosure agreement for receipt of detailed specifications. If you didn’t receive it under an NDA that doesn’t mean that you can share it. The second question to ask is whether the documents are copyrighted? Most technical specifications are copyrighted. If they are copyrighted you then need to read the copyright notice to determine what, if anything, you are authorized to do with that copyrighted material. For example the copyright notice may restrict you from copying the material or may limit your use of those materials to your internal use, which would prevent your sharing of the materials.

If you didn’t receive it under confidentiality obligations and it wasn’t restricted to internal use, you could potentially allow the other supplier to view it. That is where the issue of ethics comes into play. I believe that you should treat supplier non-confidential information in the same way you would want your non-confidential information to be treated. If you don’t want them sharing your information with their other customers (who may be your competitors) then you shouldn’t be sharing their non-confidential information with their competitors. You probably don’t need to
as these days many suppliers post their data sheets or technical specification for their products on-line for prospective buyers to view them. If the other supplier knows what product you are buying and who you are buying it from, they should be able to do the research themselves. As they are competitors they should already know exactly what their competition is selling. Many times they probably have also purchased the competitors product to do a technical analysis of the product, how its made, the materials used, etc..

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