Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

  • Dansk
  • NL
  • EN
  • FI
  • FR
  • DE
  • EL
  • IT
  • NO
  • PL
  • PT
  • RO
  • SL
  • ES
  • SV

European civil society organisations call for the rejection of the EU Trade Secrets Directive

On 28 January 2016, the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee will vote to accept or reject the text of the EU Trade Secrets Directive agreed in trilogues at the end of 2015.

We call on its members to reject it. (see the statement in pdf)

The text is the result of negotiations between the European Commission, EU Member States and the European Parliament, which spent half of 2015 debating and amending it. The negotiators have made clear that further amendment is not welcome. But this text is also a result of the lobbying of multinational corporations from the US and the EU, whose lobbyists helped a few officials at DG Internal Market draft and push for its publication. Of course, right now the companies appearing publicly to defend the text are only European SMEs and innovative start-ups.

Too much is at stake. The Parliament improved the text, but the starting point was too bad. Journalists, whistle-blowers still face legal ambiguities: Article 4 contains a very restrictive and vague list of the situations in which business information can be disclosed. And the directive concerns many more: employees, consumers, patients, those whose health is affected by living or working in proximity to instances of industrial malpractice… The impact of this text on the legal regime of public interest disclosures (such as crucial information on medicines' safety and efficacy – clinical trials data...) remains unclear too. As secrecy becomes the default status for internal corporate information, the price of these legal ambiguities will be paid by everyone.

More than that, this Directive only sets minimum standards. The scandalous criminal measures foreseen by the French government in January 2015, when it tried to introduce key elements of this Directive into French law, could be re-introduced at Member State level with this text, with opportunities for companies to use the most favorable national regime for legal action in the EU.

This new legislation extensively refers to an intellectual property framework and is not limited to preventing anti-competitive behaviour. Its adoption would therefore broaden the scope to everyone in society who “acquires, uses or publishes” information considered a trade secret. The new legal regime would be closer to the USA's, where new federal legislation is also being passed – no doubt this would be included into the TTIP if signed, making change very difficult.

The directive initially drafted by the European Commission favored companies’ economic rights at the expense of citizens’ political rights. Unfortunately the compromise text still does the same. If companies are given the means to consider almost any internal information as their quasi-intellectual property, they can prevent their employees, the main target of the text, from using any professionally relevant information learned in their jobs in another company for six years.

With companies protecting their reputation more and more aggressively, whistle-blowers are becoming the last sources of inside information on the brutality of corporate practices. We do not think that this last small light will remain if the media can be sued for the publication of any internal information which could be deemed a trade secret.

Trade secrets must not be protected at such a dramatic price. Please reject this text and ask the European Commission to propose a better one, this time not exclusively relying on industry lobbyists and lawyers for advice.

Respectfully,

Centre national de coopération au développement, CNCD-11.11.11

Corporate Europe Observatory

European Public Health Alliance

Fondation Sciences Citoyennes

Health Action International

Public Concern at Work

Vrijschrift

Xnet

The text is the result of negotiations between the European Commission, EU Member States and the European Parliament, which spent half of 2015 debating and amending it. The negotiators have made clear that further amendment is not welcome. But this text is also a result of the lobbying of multinational corporations from the US and the EU, whose lobbyists helped a few officials at DG Internal Market draft and push for its publication. Of course, right now the companies appearing publicly to defend the text are only European SMEs and innovative start-ups.Too much is at stake. The Parliament improved the text, but the starting point was too bad. Journalists, whistle-blowers still face legal ambiguities: Article 4 contains a very restrictive and vague list of the situations in which business information can be disclosed. And the directive concerns many more: employees, consumers, patients, those whose health is affected by living or working in proximity to instances of industrial malpractice… The impact of this text on the legal regime of public interest disclosures (such as crucial information on medicines' safety and efficacy – clinical trials data...) remains unclear too. As secrecy becomes the default status for internal corporate information, the price of these legal ambiguities will be paid by everyone.More than that, this Directive only sets minimum standards. The scandalous criminal measures foreseen by the French government in January 2015, when it tried to introduce key elements of this Directive into French law, could be re-introduced at Member State level with this text, with opportunities for companies to use the most favorable national regime for legal action in the EU.This new legislation extensively refers to an intellectual property framework and is not limited to preventing anti-competitive behaviour. Its adoption would therefore broaden the scope to everyone in society who “acquires, uses or publishes” information considered a trade secret. The new legal regime would be closer to the USA's, where new federal legislation is also being passed – no doubt this would be included into the TTIP if signed, making change very difficult.The directive initially drafted by the European Commission favored companies’ economic rights at the expense of citizens’ political rights. Unfortunately the compromise text still does the same. If companies are given the means to consider almost any internal information as their quasi-intellectual property, they can prevent their employees, the main target of the text, from using any professionally relevant information learned in their jobs in another company for six years.With companies protecting their reputation more and more aggressively, whistle-blowers are becoming the last sources of inside information on the brutality of corporate practices. We do not think that this last small light will remain if the media can be sued for the publication of any internal information which could be deemed a trade secret.Trade secrets must not be protected at such a dramatic price. Please reject this text and ask the European Commission to propose a better one, this time not exclusively relying on industry lobbyists and lawyers for advice.Respectfully,Centre national de coopération au développement, CNCD-11.11.11Corporate Europe ObservatoryEuropean Public Health AllianceFondation Sciences CitoyennesHealth Action InternationalPublic Concern at WorkVrijschriftXnet
Tag: 
 

Comments

Submitted by Hanne Maes (not verified) on

Unbelievable. This touches the core problem of Belgium the last 10 years, there's so much lobbying, even our minister of Healthcare is involved. I am a medecine student and this decision does not at all make the belgium that I want to live, work, and love in in the future. What a horrible decision, and what a horrible timing after the panama papers.

Submitted by Robbroeckx Lien (not verified) on

We say NO!!!

Submitted by gino vanloy (not verified) on

Are you all without any shame? Remember what happens in history from a certain point on! There whil be no turning back when the people are fed up with you're inhumane greedy bunch!

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

An Open Letter to Heads of State and Government of the European Union

You have probably never heard of AMISA2. But it turns out that AMISA2 and its predecessor AMISA have had staggeringly regular high-level access to senior EU decision-makers for decades. It is a quiet but persistent presence operating in the shadows of the Brussels bubble.

Read our submission to the EU lobby transparency register consultation and find out why the present, voluntary system just isn't enough.

The response to two complaints about broken rules and dodgy data in the lobby register confirms the current system is toothless, argues CEO.

An Open Letter to Heads of State and Government of the European Union

You have probably never heard of AMISA2. But it turns out that AMISA2 and its predecessor AMISA have had staggeringly regular high-level access to senior EU decision-makers for decades. It is a quiet but persistent presence operating in the shadows of the Brussels bubble.

A revised Emissions Trading Directive is like red meat for the hungry pack of lobbyists that work the corridors of Brussels’ political institutions. Even minor differences in how pollution permits are handed out can result in profits or savings of millions of euros to big polluters.

Read our submission to the EU lobby transparency register consultation and find out why the present, voluntary system just isn't enough.

The corporate lobby tour

Stop the Crop

Alternative Trade Mandate