My organisation is about to enter into negotiations with another entity, for the purposes of preparing a project proposal under Horizon 2020. How can I safely disclose confidential business information during the negotiations?

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Negotiating a potential project proposal will most probably involve exchanging important information, which can result in the disclosure of your ideas, know-how, plans or techniques. Ensuring that confidentiality obligations are duly put into place will allow you to safely disclose know-how and information which, although not protectable by IP rights, brings a commercial/economic/strategic value to your organisation. Furthermore, putting confidentiality obligations in place will allow you to disclose potentially patentable information to your partners without ruining the novelty requirement at the basis of a patent application.

For this reason, it is always very much advisable for potential project partners to agree on appropriate non-disclosure and confidentiality obligations before the negotiations start, by signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). An NDA will set out procedures for the definition and handling of all confidential information during the negotiations. It will also allow you and your partners to define the purpose for which such information is shared and can be used, and will allow you to strictly regulate and/or prevent any further disclosure or use.

You may alternatively include confidentiality and non-disclosure obligations in a broader document, such as a memorandum of understanding (MoU), which is a document defining the framework of negotiations between partners.