Since the UK adopted an EU directive to make sure trade secrets are kept confidential, it has been more important than ever that secrecy is assured in business. Read on for tips on how to make sure you comply with the new regulations on trade secrets.
In June 2018, new regulations came into force to protect companies’ secrets from being disclosed, used and acquired. This is called the Trade Secrets (Enforcement Etc.) Regulations 2018.
Unlawful gathering and sharing of information is against these new regulations. The reason the new laws have been brought in is to try to standardise the way this issue is treated across the EU. All countries in the EU have to abide by the new laws to protect business information. However, there can also be individual laws for extra protection within each country.
The UK’s position
The UK has its own stance on these issues, which it can use alongside the new laws. While employed, secret information can be officially protected if it resides outside of public knowledge, was shared in confidence and the disclosure of the information would be harmful to the owner.
The information could only be protected if it was subject to a certain clause in the contract of employment. This was very different from Trade Secrets regulations that protect things like the recipe of Coca Cola.
The new regulations
The new regulations add a few differences to the current UK laws. As these new laws apply across the EU, they will affect the UK. These new regulations mean that secret information is classed as such if it is not generally known, has commercial value when secret and if the parties involved have taken reasonable precautions to retain the secrecy of the information.
To be a breach of the new laws, the breaching party must know the information is supposed to be a secret – or that it ought to be a secret.
The new laws for employers
There are many things that employers now need to take into consideration. They need to establish whether the information has commercial value when kept a secret, and they also need to take steps to ensure it remains secret. This means they should label any secret documents as confidential and use encryption to protect online documents.
Employers should review contracts for employees to make sure anything essential is added to contracts in relation to confidentiality. Employees should receive proper training about the new laws where necessary, and any non-disclosure agreements should be put into place.
Many people ask will ask if these changes will be affected by Brexit. These new laws have been brought into UK law before Brexit, so they will therefore continue to apply after the UK leaves the EU. All employers should make sure their policies are updated with regard to the new regulations to ensure they are ready for the changes.