Trade secrets are valuable intellectual asset that directly affecting firms' competitiveness and innovation in the market.
On 15 December 2015, the Luxembourg presidency reached a provisional agreement with European Parliament representatives on common rules for the protection of trade secrets and confidential information of EU companies. The agreement must be approved by the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Council.
The Directive provides common measures against illegal acquisition, use and disclosure of trade secrets to ensure the smooth functioning of the single Community market.
Another main objective is to prevent the illegal disclosure of trade secrets, without prejudice to the fundamental rights and freedoms or significant public interest in the field of public safety, consumer protection, public health, environmental protection and workforce mobility.
Further, the Directive provides warranties that investigative journalism shall stay unaffected without any new restrictions in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, which maintains the freedom and pluralism of the media.
There will be no restrictions on employees in their employment contracts, and restrictions for employees to use their experience and skills honestly acquired in the normal course of their work.
An adequate protection shall be granted to persons who act in good faith when disclosing trade secrets to protect the public interest / "whistle-blowers" /.
In accordance to the new framework, the Member States must take all appropriate measures, procedures and remedies necessary to ensure that civil damages against illegal acquisition, use and disclosure of trade secrets.
After voting and publication of the Directive in the Official Journal of the EU and its entry into force, Member States will have a maximum of two years to incorporate the new provisions into national law.