Know-how Legal Protection Basics In EU & UK

Sweden was the only country to pass a law entirely dedicated to the protection of trade secrets. Some EU Member states have specific legal provisions governing such facilities, while in others, the general law rules are applied. In a number of jurisdictions in the relationship with the secrets of the production subject to the provisions of the laws on unfair competition and the Criminal Code.

Quite often, labor legislation imposes specific duties on employees to maintain the confidentiality of information of the employer during the period of employment. At the same time the problem of obtaining such information by workers illegally remains actual. In addition to the legal provisions of the duty of confidentiality may result from a contract or rules on torts.

Unfair competition

In Germany, Austria and Poland the main legal provisions concerning trade secrets are contained in the legislation on unfair competition. Such legislation exists and is partially applied to the know-how and in other countries The law of torts is actively used in respect of trade secrets in Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal.

Criminal legal protection of know-how exists in most countries (except Ireland and the UK, although in 1997, it was decided to introduce such protection, but no practical steps have been taken since then). In UK much depends on the direct services providers, like UMIP (services provider) for example, a branch of Manchester University (innovator) focused on intellectual property consulting and management.

Germany, Greece and Cyprus are considering criminal sanctions as one of the most reliable ways to prevent illegal actions in respect of protected information. The punishment for “stealing” trade secrets is usually given in the form of fines or imprisonment.

The responsibility for the disclosure of confidential information (breach of confidence) is the main way to protect the rights of trade secret in the countries with the absence of criminal legal protection (UK, Ireland). To punish the responsible parties it must be proven that the procedures on confidentiality of information, transmission of information in terms of confidentiality, the illegal use or disclosure, or the existence of a threat of such actions, as well as the infliction or threat of causing damages to the plaintiff took place.

Contractual requirements

In most EU Member States the holders of confidential information protect their rights established by the Treaty and the relevant obligations of the counterparty. It should be noted that Malta is the only country in the European Union with the Disabilities Rights Protection for trade secrets – it is not provided by law, but only by the contractual terms.

The issue of recognition of trade secret object of intellectual property is not easy. Article 39 (2) of the TRIPS Agreement relates to intellectual property proprietary information (undisclosed information). Despite this, in most EU Member States an opposite approach is applied.

Certainly, protected results of intellectual activity is considered a trade secret in Italy and, with some limitations, in the UK, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, France. For example, the UK courts to determine jurisdiction recognise the intellectual property of a technical secrets.