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Council agrees its position on the protection of trade secrets

At the Competitiveness Council on 26 May, EU ministers adopted the position on the improved protection of trade secrets. This paves the way to starting negotiations with the European Parliament.

The EU ministers responsible for competitiveness adopted a general approach on the draft directive protecting against the theft of confidential business information.

The proposal aims to make it easier for national courts to deal with the theft of business information, for victims to claim compensation and for products which infringe trade secrets to be removed from the market.   

The general approach adopted by the Council establishes a minimum level of harmonisation of civil laws across the EU, while giving member states the scope to apply stricter measures if necessary.

It sets the limitation period for an action by the plaintiff at six years and guarantees the confidentiality of legal proceedings. It also aligns principles and legal definitions with existing international agreements.  

Theft of trade secrets in the EU

According to various studies, one in five businesses has been the target of attempted theft of trade secrets in the EU in the last decade. In 2013, 25% of businesses reported at least one case of unlawful acquisition of information, up from 18% the previous year.  

Trade secrets include various information, from technological knowledge to commercial data such as information on customers, market research or business plans.


Ministers also adopted the Council’s position on technical requirements for new cars to be fitted with eCall, an emergency call service for use across Europe. The agreement reached by the Council allows it to start negotiations with the European Parliament.

When adopted, the new law would require manufacturers to equip all new cars with in-vehicle technology that will automatically alert the 112-based eCall service in the event of an accident. 

Today's agreement follows a decision earlier this month by the Council to introduce the mandatory e-Call system that handles emergency calls sent by cars in case of a crash.

The proposal is part of the EU’s efforts to increase road safety and halve the number of road deaths by 2020. 

Other main items on the agenda

Reform of the trade mark system

Ministers exchanged views on the ongoing reform of the Community trade mark system. The reform aims to modernise the system to make it easier for business to innovate. To achieve this, it will improve the efficiency of trade mark protection and make it more accessible to SMEs.  

Travel Package Directive

The Council heard a presentation by the Greek Presidency on progress made on the travel package directive. The proposed legislation aims to modernise the rules for the travel market which has been transformed in recent years, not least due to the influence of the internet.

Research and innovation

Ministers adopted conclusions that support the implementation of strategic pan-European research facilities identified by the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). The ESFRI's mission is to support policy-making on strategic development and better use of research infrastructure in Europe. It publishes the roadmap that lists priority projects responding to the long-term needs of European researchers in all scientific areas.  

The Council also adopted conclusions on the need to enhance cooperation between the European Union and the European Space Agency.    

Ministers also exchanged views on steps necessary to boost scientific and technological cooperation between the EU and Mediterranean countries.  

Without discussion, the Council adopted the own resources package. The package is a set of 3 laws related to the EU's 2014-2020 budget. Own resources constitute the EU revenue, which has to completely cover EU spending.

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