Keeping valuable information secret is often the only or the most effective way that companies have to protect their intellectual property (such as the results of their research and innovation efforts).
Although patents play a decisive role in this area, there are limitations as to what can be patented. New business solutions, marketing data and many incremental technological improvements, for example, are not patentable). Concerns regarding the effectiveness of the legal protection against the misappropriation of trade secrets in the Internal Market are already being voiced.
The differences between national laws of Member States are claimed to be such as to make it difficult to ensure that the right protective measures against such misappropriation are being applied in cross-border business. The current redress possibilities are claimed not to represent a sufficiently strong deterrent against theft of such confidential business information. This could dissuade the sharing of confidential business information across borders with business partners who could offer valuable possibilities to develop new markets for innovative products.
In view of these concerns, the European Commission has decided to analyse the current situation in the Union in more detail and to collect views with regard to the protection of business and research know-how in the Union.