What the EU Trade Secret Directive means for your IT security
Berlin, 14. February 2017
Well-protected trade secrets are often the basis of a company’s economic success. When confidential information is stolen, businesses appeal to available legal remedies or submit insurance claims. The European Union’s Trade Secret Directive defines clear consequences for handling trade secrets. It is recommended that all companies, i.e. not only innovation-driven companies, familiarize themselves with the regulation in the near future.
The directive of April 2016, officially titled “Protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure”, states that trade secrets are only deemed secret when they are protected by reasonable steps to keep them secret (Art. 2 para. 1c). This directive is to become national law in all member states by April 2018.
In all issue-related regulations to date, lawmakers have, as a rule, required secrets be safeguarded according to current technological standards and allowances. A detailed pamphlet (only available in german), explaining what this entails, can be found at the German Association of IT Security, TeleTrusT.
As an entrepreneur, you are well advised to promptly install in-house organizational and legal standards to safeguard trade secrets. This especially refers to safeguarding electronic communications. Ultimately, rapid, efficient and confidential exchange is, and remains, essential to a company’s competitive survival.
Companies and their trade secrets are especially susceptible to espionage when engaging in unencrypted email and data traffic. According to the European Union’s Trade Secret Directive, information thus stolen does not carry the legal status of a trade secret, as appropriate efforts have not been made to secure the information.
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