On Tuesday 15 December, the negotiators for the Council and for the European Parliament finally reached a deal on the new trade secrets directive. The text was proposed by the Commission in 2013. Its aim is to provide for a single EU-wide definition of a trade secret and lay down ways for companies to protect their trade secrets and to seek compensation in case of trade secrets theft or misuse. NGOs and some MEPs were worried that a wide definition of a trade secret, coupled with strong protection mechanisms would make investigative journalists´ and whistle-blowers´ jobs impossible. The EP therefore pushed, and in the end managed, to add several safeguards into the directive. Relatively widely defined trade secrets will have an equal level of protection inside the EU, with a single set of standards for their protection and mechanisms to seek compensation for theft or misuse. However, obtaining and publishing trade secrets by journalists will not be limited. Also, publishing of trade secrets in the general public interests by whistle-blowers will not be punishable. Using trade secrets in collective bargaining processes will also not be a reason to seek compensation by the trade secret owner.
Insiders indicate that the deal was a difficult one, but that the final wording is balanced. Some NGOs, however, still point out that the definition of a trade secret is much too wide. After lawyer-linguists finish the final wording of the text, the directive will be submitted to the EP committee and later to plenary for approval – expected in February 2016. After that, the Council will formally adopt the directive. Member states will have two years to transpose it into their national legislations.
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