This week the EU Parliament voted in favour of legislation to protect companies against the theft or misuse of their trade secrets, whilst still supporting the freedom of expression and information enjoyed by journalists.

The resolution was passed by a landslide 503 votes to 131 with 18 abstentions and has been welcomed by the business community which sees 1 in 5 falling victim to the theft of their trade secrets every year. According to the EU press release, the new rules aim to “create a safe a trustworthy environment for European companies, which will see their intangible assets and know-how secured”.

Prior to the vote, ministers had informally agreed upon a standardised definition of “ trade secrets” which is defined as  information that has commercial value and is secret as well as having had reasonable steps taken to ensure it remains so. All victims will have the right to initiate court proceedings against any violations and to seek compensation against any party found to be guilty of such behaviour. Rules have also been extended to protecting commercially sensitive information during court proceedings.

Whilst these measures are designed with the commercial value of business information in mind, it was stressed that they will not negatively impact pluralism, freedom of information and the work of journalists. MEPs stressed that journalists should not meet with any additional difficulties when carrying out investigations or being forced to reveal their sources of information.

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