July 13, the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) issued a report entitled "Protecting Innovation Through Trade Secrets and Patents: Determinants for EU Companies’ Success". The study found that in most EU member states, trade secrets are getting more popular than patents, especially for large companies.
The survey showed that 52.3% of the surveyed companies use trade secrets, only 31.7% of companies use patents. Among large companies, 69.1% use trade secrets, 52.8% use patents. Among small and medium enterprises, 51.2% use trade secrets, 30.4% use patents. The most important figure is that trade secrets are particularly popular in Finland, with 78.1% of companies using trade secrets, and only 33.2% of companies owning patents. Trade secrets are also popular in Germany, with 74.1% of companies using trade secrets and 47.8% of companies using patents.
The survey also found that trade secrets are more likely to be applied to method innovation and service innovation. If an innovation involves a tangible product rather than a service, patent is more likely to be applied.
Focusing on companies’ preference for patent or trade secret and the factors that influence the choice of protection strategies, this study emphasizes the complementary effects of these two methods of protection. The study also aims to provide policy makers with basic guidance to further develop the trade secret framework.
In 2016, the Trade Secrets Directive, which was designed to standardize trade secrets, was implemented.