March 28, 2014 Articles

E Pluribus Unum: The Homogenization of Trade-Secret Law in the European Union

The proposed directive seeks to bring the EU's law in line with that of the rest of the world's leading economies

By David J. Gluck

In the midst of the greatest economic downturn in the history of the European Union (EU), the European Commission proposed a 10-year strategy for the advancement of the EU economy. As part of this strategy, the commission sought "to improve the framework conditions for businesses to innovate through the optimization of Intellectual Property within the 28 Member States." See Executive Summary of the Impact Assessment, Nov. 28, 2013 (last visited Feb. 3, 2014). In furtherance of its economic-development strategy, the European Commission issued a proposed directive to the European Parliament and the council on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use, and disclosure. Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Protection of Undisclosed Know-How and Business Information (Trade Secrets) Against Their Unlawful Acquisition, Use and Disclosure, COM(2013) 813 final (Nov. 28, 2013).

The stated goal of the directive is to protect investments in the knowledge base by reducing costly fragmentation and providing better protection for EU businesses' trade secrets. Id. at2. The commission identified the irregular definitions, rights, enforcement, and remedies across EU member states as significant barriers to cross-border research and development. Id. By replacing the varying unilateral approaches to regulating and enforcing trade-secret protection presently in place in the EU, the commission seeks to reduce the disparity between EU member states' research-and-development (R&D) investments while combatting the rise in espionage and theft from Asian countries. Id. at 3.

Prior to proposing consolidated and comprehensive trade-secret law reform, the European Commission first sought to understand the "legal and economic structure of trade secrets protection in the European Union" and compare its findings with the advanced economies of Switzerland, the United States, and Japan. See Study on Trade Secrets and Confidential Business Information in the Internal Market 1, April 2013 , [hereinafter EU Study] (last visited February 3, 2014).

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