NI: European trade secrets directive a ‘deterrent to potential whistleblowers’

Paul Gilroy QC
Paul Gilroy QC

A senior UK lawyer has said the new EU trade secrets directive will serve as a deterrent to potential whistleblowers, The Times reports.

Following informal agreement by EU ministers, the European Parliament approved the directive last week in a 503-131 vote with 18 abstentions.

The directive introduces an EU-wide definition of “trade secret”, meaning information which is secret, has commercial value because it is secret, and has been subject to reasonable steps to keep it secret.

Paul Gilroy QC of Littleton Chambers in London said: “It is hard to see the directive as anything other than a deterrent to potential whistleblowers.”

He added: “The new directive raises once more the thorny issue of what amounts to a trade secret. Employers and employees can have very different views on this topic. Whether or not certain information qualifies for that description is bound to give potential whistleblowers pause for thought when deciding whether to make disclosures.”

The directive has not yet been incorporated into domestic law.

Constance le Grip, the French MEP who introduced the directive, said: “With one company out of every five a victim of theft of trade secrets every year, harmonisation should allow the creation of a safe and trustworthy environment for European companies, which will see their intangible assets and know-how secured.

“I’ve also been fighting to ensure that the safeguards laid down in this text to protect the work of journalists and whistle-blowers are as real and as unambiguous as can be.”

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