Council Finally Adopts the Trade Secrets Directive


Following an agreement reached with the European Parliament on December 2015, the Council has decided to implement a directive laying out rules to protect trade secrets and confidentiality of EU companies. The directive sets out rules which put forward mutual procedures against illegal acquisitions, disclosure and usage of trade secrets, aiming at securing an even, functioning internal market.

The directive discourages illegal disclosure of trade secrets without deterring fundamental freedoms and rights or any of the public interests including the public health and safety, consumer and environmental protection and the mobility of workers. While the directive provides measures preventing the disclosure of information to protect the confidentiality of trade secrets, the new measures fully ensure that investigative journalism can be exercised without any new limitations including with regard to the protection of journalistic sources. In accordance with the new legal framework, EU member states will have to provide for the measures, procedures and remedies necessary to ensure the availability of civil redress against illegal acquisition, use and disclosure of trade secrets.

Whilst providing measures which prevent the disclosure of information to safe-guard confidentiality, the new directive guarantees that investigative journalism can be practiced without any new restrictions, even with regard the protection of journalistic sources. Accordingly, remedies, procedures and any measures necessary will have to be provided by the EU member states to make sure that civil redresses, promoting any illegal attainments, disclosure and use of trade secrets are available.

Consequently, such measures will have to be just and effective, enhancing the aim of the directive itself. Civilians will be able to claim for a period of no longer than six years. In addition, during and after legal proceedings confidentiality will also be maintained where required. Within a maximum of two years, member states will have to integrate new domestic laws after the publication of the directive in the Official Journal of the EU and initialisation.

The directive covers a fair description of trade secrets, giving a vast range of information which stretches further from technological know-how to marketable information including data related to clienteles and suppliers, market research and strategies or business plans. The directive incentive was first submitted in November 2013 and the European Parliament voted on 14 April 2016.