EU Introduces Directive and Harmonised Definition of ‘Trade Secrets’


On the 14th April 2016, the European Parliament adopted the new Data Protection Regulation and voted in favour of a new directive on the protection of ‘trade secrets’. This directive is particularly significant since for the first time, the EU has established a definition of what constitutes a ‘trade secret’. This would be secret information that has commercial value due to its status as secret, in relation to which several measures have been taken in order to protect it and keep it secret.

The directive will come into force within 20 days of its publication in the EU Official Journal and all EU member states will have a time frame of two years within which to fully transpose the directive into their national legislation from the time when the directive is adopted by the EU. The new regulations include common measures aimed at preventing the unlawful acquisition and dissemination of trade secrets and seek to protect confidential commercial information and the rights of owners of such information while also addressing the public interest and safety, consumer and environmental protection, worker mobility and freedom of expression. This means that employees, representatives and whistle blowers are also safeguarded by the new directive.

At present, Maltese legislation already caters to an extent for the protection of trade secrets and already has a number of measures in place in relation to their infringement, however, it is expected that over the next two years, the Maltese legislator will introduce further necessary measures in order to fully transpose the new EU regulations. While certain measures that need as yet to be introduced are listed in the directive, there is also space for other measures to be introduced that best fit the specific member state’s requirements.