The Council of the European Union (“Council”) has agreed a general approach for the enactment of proposals for a new trade secrets regime to harmonise the protection of trade secrets across all European Union (“EU”) Member States.

The initial proposals were published by the European Commission in November 2013  and included a draft Directive for harmonising trade secrets law across the EU (see previous article for details). The Council’s recent agreement sets forth a revised compromise text for the draft Directive which includes the following key amendments:

  • Creating minimum harmonisation standards, to which Member States can apply stricter rules if they choose to do so;
  • Extending the limitation period in which to bring a claim to 6 years (from the Commission’s original proposal of 2 years);
  • Providing that the mechanisms for ensuring that confidentiality of information is maintained during legal proceedings are made subject to additional safeguards, requirements and limits aimed at reinforcing legal certainty and full respect for the rights of the parties to a fair trial;
  • Making the ability of Member States to allow infringing goods to be delivered to charities optional;
  • Allowing Member States to place limits on awards of damages against individual employees in order to protect those persons; and
  • Simplifying the provisions regarding the unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure of trade secrets and clarifying the meaning of “lawful acquisition”.

By agreeing a general approach, the Council aims to speed the progress of the proposals through the EU legislature. The next stage of the process will involve the Council negotiating with the European Parliament, in the aim of reaching an agreement on the proposals at the Parliament’s first reading.

The press release about the agreement and the full text of the amended draft Directive can both be found on the Council’s website.