Ethical Thinking And Trade Secret Business Essay Business Essay

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Morality is the main force which controls the human's greed for money and power. Godfrey (1996). Ethics is the strong point which drives us to think morally what is right and wrong. So in other words we can say that ethical thinking is the mirror image of what is morally right or wrong. Morality and ethical thinking of a person come from different sources like religion, education, society, culture, etc. The ability to think what is right and wrong generally comes from seeing and learning from the society, personality of the person usually reflect on the persons work. This discussion paper is about Jeremy Hart, Citadel system, Inc. and Northwell Networks. This case study mainly discusses about Jeremy Hart and his experiences faced in Citadel and Northwell Networks. Discussion starts with Jeremy Hart a software engineer employed in Citadel to develop a new sophisticated database application was hired by Citadel's largest competitor Northwell Networks. In this section of the paper some of the ethical issues about Jeremy Hart are discussed. In the second section of the paper the issue of Trade secret comes into focus, some of the ethical issues about Hart providing the secrets of Citadel to Northwell Networks are discussed.


There are many ethical issues to be considered in this case study, main ethical issues to be considered is about Jeremy Hart at the same time some the ethical issues about the Northwell Networks should also be considered.

Did Jeremy Hart act ethically in accepting Northwell Networks job offer? Jeremy Hart was considered as the brightest and insightful employee working in database application by his co-workers, he worked several years in developing the sophisticated database which can be used by hundreds of users simultaneously. In this process Citadel also developed a protocol to solve the functional problems in database application which cannot be observed by the customers and the competitors. At this point Hart developed the database after facing many pitfalls and he was also offered higher salary, leadership opportunities and a benefits which are not available at Citadel by Northwell Networks. Now our point of ethical issue come into focus, Is Jeremy Hart act ethically in accepting the Northwell Networks offer? Considering the ethical theories like Absolute rule based ethics and Utilitarian ethics Alistair Godbold (1999) which states "An action is right from an ethical point of view if and only if, the sum total of the utilities produced by the act is greater than the sum total of the utilities produced by any other act." In this case Hart had much scope of development in Northwell Networks and is ethical to accept Northwell Networks job offer.

Did Northwell networks act ethically in hiring Jeremy Hart? When Jeremy Hart was offer a job by Northwell Networks, while hireing he was not mentioned about the work done in Citadel. Northwell networks just recognised his great work in Citadel and offered him a better position in there company. Northwell Networks did not know that Hart was having copies of previous work at the time of recruitment, they only expected him to work on the same project as Citadel. From this statements we can say that Northwell networks acted ethically in hiring Jeremy Hart.

Is it ethical to use copies of previous employer in current job? Trade secrets are considered as the intellectual property Kurt M. Saunders (2006). Intellectual property is which consists of information about the work done in a company which may be considered as useful to the other company. If a company A loses its intellectual property to a company B then there may be a great benefits and profits to company B which uses the intellectual property of company A. In this discussion Jeremy Hart kept the copies of work done in Citadel which he was made to use them forcefully at Northwell Networks. Jeremy Hart was told in Citadel that their work should not be used or should not be discussed anywhere but was not forced to sign the nondisclosure agreement for the work done in Citadel. Hart faced the same technical issues regarding the development of the database system which he worked with previously , Hart applied the methods which were useful for the development of the database system in Nortwell. As a part of his job he forced his team to work for the solutions he already know which indicates that hart had no intension to use the same methods which are used to solve the problem in Citadel but he forced his team to achieve the solution by themselves. Hart was forced to use the copied by his supervisor who offered him upper management position and bonus, Hart said no to his supervisor first but he was forced to use it. This is the point where Hart disclosed his previous work to speed up the development process in Northwell Networks. According to USTA Kurt M. Saunders (2006). It is unethical to disclose the previous work to the benefit of others. This leads to the misappropriation in which means to use the information of one person to another person without the authorization of the owner of that information.

Did the supervisor behave ethically by asking Jeremy Hart to share the copies from Citadel? Jeremy Hart was not only asked to produce the copies of the previous work he was also threatened about his employment future in Northwell by the supervisor this is a situation in which Hart thought about his future and made a decision to make use of the copies of the previous work in improving the database system in Northwell. Hart was thinking ethically at this point by rejecting the statement at first but it turned out to be a problem for him when his supervisor talked about his future in Northwell, in this situation Hart thought it would be a best option to handover the copies to his supervisor and improve the database according to the copies. Here the ethics of the supervisor should be questioned, supervisor behaved unethically by asking Hart to use the copies of Citadel. But here we can also consider Hart choice was unethical, he disclosed the information of the previous employee. According to Irish (2005) it is considered as a criminal act in some countries to disclose the information of the previous employee. Although Hart did not sign the nondisclosure agreement in Citadel while leaving the job but was told it's not ethical to use one company secrets in other company.

Did Citadel act ethically by leaving the employ without signing the nondisclosure agreement? While working in Citadel Hart made some copies of his work which are confidential information about the development of the database system. He was often told by his manager that the work done in Citadel should not be discussed or used outside the Citadel but in Hart case it went wrong, if Hart was made to sign the nondisclosure agreement then they would have protected there valuable trade secret from the misuse. Business of the company depends on how well the company can protect its trade secrets, approximately 70% value of the company comes from the trade secrets Kurt M. Saunders (2006). If a trade secret is known to other company by any means it brings a great loss to the company which invested in that trade secret.


Ethical theories are the one which drive to the conclusion of an issue in a moral way. Herman T Tavani (2007). They help to deal with an issue and come to a conclusion and sometimes they help to see a dilemma in a ethical way. An idle ethical theory is one which can be applicable to a large choice of problems and issues.


Labour theory of property was developed by John Locke it states that the natural right of property is owned by the person who delivers labour towards that property. In other words it can be said that if a person sees a tree which is not owned by anyone and wanted to have a fruit from it and he plucked the fruit from that tree, then that fruit he plucked from the tree becomes his own property because he applied his labour work (plucking) to own the fruit. If the tree is owned by anyone else then the fruit plucked by the person will not be his own anymore. LYSANDER SPOONER (1855). In Jeremy Hart's discussion it is told that he and his colleagues have kept their efforts to develop the new database application, in this case it's not only Jeremy Hart who worked on the development but also his colleagues. In the similar manner Citadel have developed a unique protocol which was used in solving the technical problems in the software development. If these cases are considered and applied to The Labour Theory of Property, Citadel has chances to make a ethical case against Northwell Networks saying that they own the property because they are the discoverers and they are the one who applied labour to the database system they developed. It was Citadel who developed the protocols for the database which cannot be recognised by the customers or the competitors of Citadel. It can be said that there may be same kind of protocols developed by Citadel in the database management product developed by Northwell Networks.


Utilitarian theory argues that an action which gives maximum number of utilities to maximum number of people is considered as ethical action. Godbold(1999). This theory is considered to be the best resulting ethical theory but in some cases its ethical output is not right. Considering case in which a civil engineer wanted to build a bridge which can save a lot of money for the people in that city, but he knows that building this bridge kills some workers constricting bridge. If this case is considered according to the Utilitarian theory, constricting that bridge is right but engineer knows that it will kill some workers. It is not ethical to build that bridge knowingly it will kill some workers. In Jeremy Hart discussion he was the only person who was benefited more by getting higher salary, leadership opportunities and better benefits at nothwell networks and he was also told to get gratitude to upper management and huge bonus. This is all what Hart got to use the old notes of Citadel at Northwell Networks. Considering the Utilitarian theory of property which tells an action is ethical only if it brings maximum benefits to the maximum number of people but in this case Hart is the only one who is benefited by his work. Jeremy Hart and Citadel employees worked hard to solve the security issue problems in the database application which can be used by hundreds of users. Now according to Utilitarian theory what Hart has done is not ethical because the maximum number of people who would be benefited if Hart did not use his copies, maximum number of people here would be the sum of the employs in Citadel Inc and the number of users who would be benefited by the usage of databases to save multiple level of information consecutively.

But at the same time if Citadel had made the nondisclosure agreement mandatory then there would be a possibility of saving the trade secrets. Hart would have never given the secrets of Citadel to Northwell Networks, he would have thought of the nondisclosure agreement and told his supervisor that Citadel may go legal if they come to know about their secret got disposed in its competitor company. Its one's own company responsibility to save the trade secrets Kurt M. Saunders (2006). If the utility of signing the nondisclosure agreement in this case of Citadel would have proved the happiness of employees, customers and the management of the Citadel i.e. the maximum number of people would be happy in this case. This state's if utilitarianism theory of property is applied then the positive options on Citadel come into picture and the negative options about Northwell comes into picture.


In view of Hegel a person's imaginative work shows the personality of his in it. In other words image of one's personality can be seen in one's creative work. In case of Hart we can consider that whatever he has done is image of his personality according to this theory. The database application developed in Northwell networks may consist the protocols of Citadel Inc because the work done by referring the notes of Citadel will automatically lead Northwell Networks to include the protocols in it. The members of staff in Northwell Networks may not notice the protocols in database system because they were designed in such a way that they are not noticeable by customers or the competitors of Citadel Inc. If this Citadel applies the reverse engineering process on the database system developed by the Northwell Networks which Citadel thinks have traces of their database application, then if they find the Citadel protocols in Northwell's database application it proves that Citadels trade secrets are disclosed in Northwell Network. In this way the personality of the Citadel's database application can be seen in Northwell's database application.

According to the discussion we can see that there was no effort made by the Northwell Networks to develop their own database management system, efforts here are like making a protocol to solve the database problem. When Hart told about the progress and efficiency of the database management system of Citadel was more superior then that of what Northwell Networks have developed then the supervisor just asked Hart to handover the notes of Citadel which is not ethical to do instead of asking him to develop some software that would fasten the database management system and increase the efficiency of the database management system. If the supervisor in Northwell Networks had suggested doing something like developing software to increase the efficiency of the database management system then it would not lead to be a ethical problem in any case, it would just be considered as a fair means of competition. But instead of doing that the supervisor had just asked Hart to hand over the notes, when hart rejected he forced him to handover the copies or else it would be hard for Hart to get through in Northwell Networks. Here the point of professional ethics of Jeremy hart comes into picture, professional ethics involve most about the moral values in a view of a professional way which means a professional is considered to be a person who attained knowledge, critical thinking and problem solving abilities by his/her education or the personal background and how he/she uses that abilities to perform a task. Ronald E. Anderson, Deborah G. Johnson, Donald Gotterbarn, Judith Perrolle (1993).


Critical thinking is ability of decision making. Success of a person depends on how well he can judge the situation and thinks critically, problem solving is also considered as a part of critical thinking. Problem solving and decision making are the key factors for the growth in any workplace. Critical thinkers don't go with their emotions instead they think for the reasons and facts for a problem and the solution.

Argument is a group of premises which lead to a conclusion either true or false.

Argument 1

Premise 1. Citadel manager told Hart not to discuss the work outside Citadel.

Premise 2. Hart kept copies of notes made in development of Citadel database management


Premise 3. Hart handed over the notes to supervisor in Northwell Networks.

Conclusion: Therefore Hart cheated with Citadel Inc.

In this argument all the Premise are true according to the case study produced, when Hart was in Citadel his manager told him and his other employees that they should not discuss or disclose the secrets of the database system outside. But later hart handed over the notes taken in Citadel to Northwell Networks supervisor from this premise conclusion adopted is Hart Cheated with Citadel. Morally hart knows that its unethical to disclose the trade secrets to anyone who is going to be benefited either in development or financially, but hart thought there was no option left for him in this situation and handed over the notes to Northwell Networks.

Argument 2

Opening statement: Hart was not willing to be disloyal to Citadel.

Premise 1. Supervisor at Northwell forced Hart to handover the notes.

Premise 2. Hart restricted to handover the notes to Northwell.

Conclusion: therefore, Hart was forced to be unethical to his profession.

In this argument we can see that Hart was not willing to handover the notes to Citadel but he was made to handover the notes because of the supervisor who threatened Hart by saying "you won't get far at Northwell if u feel obligated to Citadel". This made Hart to look forward for his future in Northwell and handed over the notes to supervisor.


In this paper we discussed about Jeremy Hart in Citadel and Northwell Netorks, some of the ethical points which involve Hart and the two companies are discussed and judged whether the ethical issues are right or wrong? In that ethical issues it is been noticed that Hart was not willing to be unethical in some point of time but he was driven to be unethical by the issues he faced. Northwell networks was more focused on the output of the new database management system rather than considering the ethical points involved in achieving the goal. Three different Ethical theories are discussed which state who is ethical and who is unethical in different situations. The Labour theory of property, The utilitarianism theory of property and The personality theory of property are discussed in this paper. All the three theories go in favour of Citadel in ethical point of view according to the definitions of the three theories. Discussion for the different arguments are made and the conclusions for the arguments are developed which state that Hart cheated on Citadel by providing the notes to Northwell Networks and he was unethical to his profession in different cases.