Brussels, Paris – 20 April 2016
The first reading of the Draft Directive on the protection of trade secrets, adopted last Thursday by the European Parliament, before the European Union Council (where representatives of Member States governments sit) is expected to take place on 17 May. The Council’s approval is necessary for the Directive’s final adoption. The organizations campaigning against the Directive ask the representatives of the governments of the Member States not to adopt the current Draft and encourage all citizens who wish to do so to continue signing the petition against the Directive (https://act.wemove.eu/campaigns/les-lanceurs-d-alerte-en-danger).
Indeed, the issues raised last week, when the Parliament voted, remain unsolved. By including within its scope of application (Articles 2 and 4) people who are not spies, but simply seek to practise their professions (journalists, scholars, executives looking to change jobs) or to follow what their conscience dictates (whistleblowers), this piece of legislation aimed at combating industrial espionage goes too far. It is going to offer companies the legal tools to sue anyone who may obtain, use or publish trade secrets without their consent. The exceptions obtained by the Parliament, which are meant to secure the work of journalists and whistleblowers and the mobility of workers, did improve upon the European Commission’s initial proposal, but they remain insufficient and must still be improved. The main problem remains the fact that trade secrets are too broadly defined, and unlawful acquisition (Article 4) is simply defined as acquisition without the authorisation of the trade secret’s owner, which makes it easier to bring suit. The persons against whom proceedings are brought will then have to convince judges that they are not spies but are covered by the exceptions proved for in the Directive.
This is unacceptable and the text must be modified in order to restrict its scope to the acquisition, use or publication of trade secrets by persons acting on economic interests. That is the least we can ask of a piece of legislation dealing with what is essentially an issue of unfair competition.
Martin Pigeon, Corporate Europe Observatory +32484671909 (FR, EN)
Sophie Binet, UGICT-CGT, +33686876845 (FR)