The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), through the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, has recently released an EU-wide study entitled "Protecting Innovation Through Trade Secrets and Patents: Determinants for European Union Firms".
This study uses data from the Community Innovation Survey for 24 Member States, which examines the economic importance of trade secrets and their relationship with patents.
Three main findings emerge from this study :
- The use of trade secrets is higher than the use of patents for most types of companies (although it is particularly prevalent among SMEs), in most economic sectors and in all Member States.
- Market novelty and innovation in tangible goods are associated with a preference for patents while process and service innovations are more often protected through secrecy.
- There is complementarity between the use of trade secrets and patents—many companies use both methods to protect their innovations.
These results will provide a basis for policy-makers and companies to further develop policies in this area following the adoption of the Trade Secrets Directive in 2016.