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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.

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Is the information I disclose to the European Commission in my Horizon 2020 application protected?
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Yes. The European Commission treats all proposals received as confidential, as well as any related information, data and documents received from each applicant. The whole process of handling and evaluating proposals is carried out in compliance with strict confidentiality rules, and proposals are archived under secure conditions at all times.

Similarly, external experts involved in the review of project proposals are also bound by confidentiality obligations. Evaluators, observers and other experts have to sign a contract with the European Commission, including a code of conduct which sets forth very strict confidentiality obligations.