Watch our webinar! “Tricky sickness issues”

Act on the Protection of Trade Secrets

Publication date: 5 September 2018
The new Act on the Protection of Trade Secrets (WBB) ensures more effective protection of trade secrets than at present. The Act specifies what a trade secret is and by which procedure damages and suspension of the violation can be claimed. In addition, the Act ensures to maintain confidentiality of trade secrets during the procedure.


The Dutch government is currently in the process of implementation of the European Trades Secrets Directive. The Directive aims at protecting non–public company information & knowhow from being obtained, used or disclosed unlawfully. The Act on the Protection of Trade Secrets (Wet bescherming bedrijfsgeheimen; WBB) will soon enter into force for the purpose of implementation of the Directive. Prior to the entry into force of this Act the European Trades Secrets Directive will have direct effect in the Netherlands.

Trade secrets

The Act on the Protection of Trade Secrets ensures better protection of trade secrets. A trade secret is considered information which is:

  • Not known or easily accessible to persons that are usually dealing with the information concerned;
  • Of commercial value, as it is secret; and
  • Subject to reasonable measures in order to be kept secret.

A trade secret is not necessarily technical knowledge of models or products. Marketing strategies, business plans and trade information fall under trade secrets too.

Obtained, used or disclosed unlawfully

The Act on the Protection of Trade Secrets provides that obtaining a trade secret without the permission of the holder of the trade secret is unlawful if:

  • A person has gained unauthorised access to the trade secret;
  • A person has taken it unlawfully;
  • A person has copied documents, files or suchlike including trade secrets or from which trade secrets can be deduced; or
  • Obtaining them is in violation of fair trading.

The Act on the Protection of Trade Secrets stipulates that, the use or making known to the public of a trade secret could be unlawful if the trade secret is used or disclosed without consent of the holder of the trade secret by a person who:

  • Has obtained the trade secret unlawfully;
  • Violates a confidentiality agreement or another requirement regarding non-disclosure of a trade secret, or
  • Violates an obligation restricting the use of the trade secret.

The Act on the Protection of Trade Secrets also refers to situations in which obtaining, use or disclosure of trade secrets can be lawful. For instance, in investigative journalism, which is protected by freedom of expression or regarding disclosure of misconduct, mistakes or illegal activities by whistleblowers.

Safeguarding trade secrets

If a trade secret is obtained, used or disclosed unlawfully, a civil procedure can be initiated in court. The Act on the Protection of Trade Secrets provides that the holder of a trade secret can either apply for measures to the court in interlocutory proceedings or to the ordinary court. That way, suspension of the unlawful use can be imposed or a ban on production issued. Also, the holder of a trade secret may claim damages and full reimbursement of court fees similar to other matters regarding intellectual property.

To be able to show that a trade secret was violated, the trade secret will have to be disclosed, which is not the intention of the holder of the trade secret. By the implementation of the Directive the court can, upon application, specify exhibits as confidential and limit the number of persons with access thereto. In addition, upon request a non-confidential version of the decision can be published online where the parts including trade secrets have been deleted or edited.

The new Act will not make the confidentiality clause in an employment contract dispensable, as this clause may have a broader scope than what is defined as a trade secret in the Act. In the event of theft of trade secrets a report can also be filed with the police in addition to a civil procedure of the Act on the Protection of Trade Secrets.

What can we do for you?

Russell Advocaten will monitor the developments regarding the Act on the Protection of Trade Secrets and, with our knowledge of corporate law and intellectual property rights, we will be able to inform you and provide you with advice on these issues. Please contact us:

    Share on social media

    • Employment law and dismissal

    Employee confidentiality clause

    9 October 2018

    How important is a confidentiality clause in an employment contract or settlement agreement and how can it be maintained by the employer?

    read on
    • Employment law and dismissal

    Three important topics to include in your employment contract under Dutch, US and UK law

    15 July 2021

    In the last issue of Stare Decisis, Priscilla de Leede of Russell Advocaten, Mary Edenfield of Mateer Harbert and Ed Belam of Marriott Harrison discuss the most important topics to include in your employment contracts regarding the termination of the contract. There are some important differences to take into account!

    read on
    • Franchise, distribution and agency
    • Contracts

    Beware of vague wording in franchise agreements

    24 June 2021

    It is important to use clear and unambiguous language in agreements. This has once again been demonstrated by a recent judgement of the Supreme Court. Because of ambiguities in franchise agreements, franchisees of Albert Heijn may have lost millions.

    read on
    • Employment law and dismissal

    Dismissal of sick statutory director

    18 June 2021

    A sick employee may not be dismissed. However, an employee who knows of imminent dismissal, cannot avoid this by reporting sick. But when does the employee know that this is the case? This question was central to the court case concerning the dismissal of a CFO of Volksbank.

    read on
    • Expats
    • Employment law and dismissal

    17 June 2021: Employment Webinar “Tricky sickness issues”

    17 June 2021

    If your employee reports sick, this may raise many difficult questions. What are your reintegration obligations during the sick leave period? What are you allowed to record about your sick employee with regard to the privacy legislation? We answered these and other questions during a webinar. Watch the video!

    read on
    • Employment law and dismissal

    Be careful with the employer’s statement!

    14 June 2021

    Before obtaining a mortgage or rental contract, banks or landlords often ask for an employer’s statement. Such a statement can sometimes have unintended consequences for the employer. What do you need to be aware of?

    read on
    • Employment law and dismissal

    Statutory minimum wage as of 1 July 2021

    2 June 2021

    As of 1 July 2021, the statutory minimum wage and minimum youth wage will be increased. What are the new amounts of the minimum wage?

    read on
    • Fashion and luxury
    • Litigation

    The advantages of arbitration

    19 May 2021

    Proceedings do not always have to be in court. There are other ways to resolve legal disputes. An important and often also appealing alternative is arbitration. In particular if you are doing business internationally. What are the advantages of arbitration?

    read on