Proposal to shield car companies from industrial spies

A Riksdag member from Arjeplog in northern Sweden is proposing a new bill which may restrict one of Sweden’s most cherished rights in order to protect the auto industry from industrial espionage.

Cold weather vehicle testing is an important industry in Sweden’s often frigid northern regions and several of the world’s leading auto manufacturers head north every year to see how they can improve vehicles’ cold weather performance.

Despite the cold temperatures, vehicle testing also attracts the prying eyes of those wishing to get a look at the competition or reveal trade secrets – something that the auto industry very much wants to avoid.

But Sweden’s Right of Public Access (Allemänsrätten), which ensures that members of the public can roam freely in the countryside, complicates efforts to block off the areas where vehicle testing takes place.

“It’s about people who, with the support of Sweden’s Right of Public Access, are seen on the grounds where the testing takes place,” said Social Democratic Riksdag member Maria Stenberg to the Piteå-Tidningen newspaper.

Now Stenberg is planning to introduce legislation to help offer auto companies more protection.

“Many of the world’s leading manufacturers of cars and components have invested in facilities, both in Arjeplog and Arvidsjaur. These have resulted in new and welcome employment opportunities,” writes Stenberg.

Stenberg wants the government to consider allowing certain areas to be blocked off to the public for short periods of time when the risk for industrial espionage is at its highest.

She also insists that the measure shouldn’t be seen as an infringement on the Right of Public Access

“Of course we’ll protect the Right of Public Access. It has enormous significance for the quality of life of residents and for tourism in Norbotten [County]. But it’s obvious that in this case, there are two interests which stand opposed to each other – the free-moving outdoor life versus car companies’ right to protect their products,” said Stenberg.