The Global Harmonization of Trade Secret Law: The Convergence of Protections for Trade Secret Information in the United States and European Union

By Patel, Anand B.; Pade, Jeffrey A. et al. | Defense Counsel Journal, October 2016 | Go to article overview

The Global Harmonization of Trade Secret Law: The Convergence of Protections for Trade Secret Information in the United States and European Union


Patel, Anand B., Pade, Jeffrey A., Cundiff, Victoria, Newman, Bradford, Defense Counsel Journal


Victoria Cundiff litigates trade secrets disputes in state and Federal courts nationally, coordinates international trade secrets litigation, and helps clients develop alternatives to litigating trade secrets disputes. She is the Chair of AlPLA's Trade Secrets Litigation Subcommittee and is Co-Chair of the New York State Bar Association's Committee on Trade Secrets. Bradford Newman founded and leads Paul Hastings' International Employee Mobility and Trade Secret practice. He is the author of Protecting Intellectual Property in the Age of Employee Mobility: Forms and Analysis, a comprehensive treatise published by ALM that offers authoritative guidance on legal risks and practical steps companies can take to protect their IP and remedy IP theft. In connection with his national practice spanning many industries, Mr. Newman routinely serves as lead trial counsel in cases with potential eight and nine-figure liability, and has successfully litigated a broad spectrum of trade secret and employee mobility cases in state and federal courts throughout the country. Jeffrey A. Pade is an intellectual property litigator with over 20 years of experience in all phases of patent trade secrets, and other intellectual property laws. He has directed complex and international patent and trade secrets litigation strategies concerning mechanical, semiconductor, and many other technologies for clients around the globe, and actively represents international clients in intellectual property audits, investigations, and strategic initiatives. Anand B. Patel provides strategic business counseling on intellectual property disputes, investigations, and transactions, and has extensive trial and appellate experience in patent and trade secret matters. A former Federal Circuit clerk, he represents a diverse group of clients on technologies ranging from microprocessor fabrication to pharmaceuticals.

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AS major regions across the world seek to harmonize trade secret law within and across jurisdictions, international companies now should focus on building their own uniform policies and procedures for protecting their intellectual property and defending against claims of misappropriation. Given the recent passage of the Defend Trade Secrets Act ("DTSA") and the EU Trade Secrets Directive (the "Directive"), it is clear that both regions have recognized the substantial value of trade secrets to the global economy and have decided to take analogous stances on the basics of trade secret law, including what constitutes a trade secret and how a violation occurs. Although the similarities are not unexpected the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights ("TRIPS Agreement") (1) provides many foundational provisions there are important nuances in each locale's rules that affect how companies should consider enforcing trade secret rights and defending against misappropriation claims across those major international jurisdictions.

I. Overview of the DTSA

After several unsuccessful attempts over more than five years, (2) Congress in April overwhelmingly approved (3) and President Obama in May signed (4) the DTSA, which provides a Federal private right of action for trade secret misappropriation. The DTSA is incorporated into the previously-enacted Economic Espionage Act ("EEA"), (5) which provides criminal penalties for misappropriation. (6)

The DTSA pulls heavily from the Uniform Trade Secrets Act ("UTSA"), (7) already in force in some form in 48 states, (8) by providing similar definitions of key terms and remedies for misappropriation. (9) In addition to providing the right to sue in Federal court (importantly, without preempting parallel state law claims (10)), the DTSA provides an ex parte seizure mechanism and whistleblower immunity.

II. Overview of the EU Directive

In 2013, after studies (11) showed the importance of trade secrets to the economy, particularly to small and medium-sized enterprises, and the fears of many organizations that asserting claims for misappropriation would result in inadequate remedies and potentially place their trade secrets at risk of public disclosure, the European Commission proposed a Directive to address differences in the trade secret laws of the EU Member States. …

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