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Trade secrets: protecting businesses, safeguarding the right to information

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14/04/2016
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European Parliament in Strasbourg
European Parliament in Strasbourg

New EU rules to help firms win legal redress against theft or misuse of their trade secrets were voted by Parliament on Thursday. MEPs ensured that freedom of expression and information will be protected and that the rules will not restrict the work of journalists.

“With one company out of every five a victim of theft of trade secrets every year, harmonisation should allow the creation of a safe and trustworthy environment for European companies, which will see their intangible assets and know-how secured”, said rapporteur Constance le Grip (EPP, FR). "I've also been fighting to ensure that the safeguards laid down out this text to protect the work of journalists and whistle-blowers are as real and as unambiguous as can be", she added.

The directive, informally agreed with ministers before the vote, introduces an EU-wide definition of “trade secret”, meaning information which is secret, has commercial value because it is secret, and has been subject to reasonable steps to keep it secret.

It would oblige EU member states to ensure that victims of misuse of trade secrets are able to defend their rights in court and to seek compensation. The agreed text also lays down rules to protect confidential information during legal proceedings.

Throughout the negotiations with ministers, MEPs stressed the need to ensure that the legislation does not curb media freedom and pluralism or restrict the work of journalists, in particular with regard to their investigations and the protection of their sources.

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Further information

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Read the full press release on the compromise reached in December hereAdopted text will be available here (click on 14.04.2016)Video recording of debate (click on 13.04.2016)Video of the press conferenceEbS+ (13.04.2016)EP Think Tank: Protecting businesses' trade secretsAudiovisual material for professionalsText of the compromise with the CouncilPress release on committee vote (28.01.2016)Profile of rapporteur Constanze Le Grip (EPP, FR)Procedure file