Trade secrets

Last modified:

Thursday 31 October 2019

Due to lack of uniformity in national laws, and to the absence of a precise definition of the concept of "trade secret" at a European level, intellectual theft has become rife in the EU in recent years.

As in many other countries within the European Union, Belgium does not currently have a specific definition for "trade secret." The available protective measures are very limited. Individuals, companies, and enterprises that want to protect their secrets, do not have any other choice but to make use of confidentiality clauses or the limited protection provided by patent and trademark law.

In response to this reality, "Directive 2013/0402 on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against unauthorized acquisition, use, and disclosure thereof" was drafted. This Directive now includes a detailed definition of the term "trade secret," indicates the punishment in the event of unauthorized use thereof, as well as the remedies that you can apply if your trade secret is revealed.  All of this information can be found in detail in the article "Are your trade secrets protected?", written by Frédéric Dechamps, a lawyer at the Brussels Bar (article only available in french/ dutch).

On May 27, 2016, the Council of the European Union unanimously adopted the guideline on trade secrets. Once the guideline is published in the Official Journal of the European Union and enters into force (20 days after), the Member States have two years to convert the guideline into a form that is acceptable in their national legislation. This guideline will provide the necessary adjustments to be made in our laws.

In the meantime, your company secrets can be protected by a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) or a confidentiality agreement.

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