Wednesday, 4 February 2015
14 January 2015, 2 pm
I set off for a conference, with the EyePeePee. On the way there he tells me a riveting story. By this I mean he tells me how he spent his weekend putting rivets in bits of trains to join them to other bits of trains. Apparently there are two types of rivets (yeah, yeah) and it took a lot of blokes to get them to the right temperature and smack them into the right places. And the EyePeePee had a Very Important Job (yeah, yeah), which as far as I can tell was to crawl under the train to pick up the rivets that the other blokes had dropped. But maybe I misunderstood that bit: there are a lot of roads to cross on the way and I am busy worrying that the EyePeePee, who by now has the look of a Seriously Possessed Enthusiast about him, does not absent-mindedly stray into them. He tells me he is very tired and he does indeed look a bit sooty still behind the ears.
I accidentally follow the EyePeePee straight into a meeting with the conference panellists. I realise I have made a massive faux-pas because I am not a panellist and I know nothing about the subject they are discussing, but it is too late to back out. I will just have to blag it. Again.
The panellists are European Commissioners and professors and eminent QCs. At first I think I have managed to fool them, because I know that this is how it works at CIPA and indeed in most businesses: if you turn up to a meeting people will assume you are meant to be there and listen to what you say even if you know nothing. But the head of this meeting is one Right Honourable Professor Sir Robin Jacob and I realise he is not the type of man you could fool into crawling under a train to pick up other blokes’ rivets. Professor Sir Robin suggests we go round the table and introduce ourselves. I succumb to a seasonal coughing fit.
The conference is all about trade secrets. The biggest secret about trade secrets is that nobody actually has any. Everybody pretends to have them, though, so as not to be thought the only business in the world that Has No Trade Secrets. It is easy to pretend to have trade secrets because, dur, they are secrets so you cannot tell anyone what they are, not even your staff who might pass them on to their friends, or your lawyers, whose IT systems are so unsophisticated they could be hacked into with nail clippers. Nobody must ever know our trade secrets, you can say; they are extremely hush-hush and Need-to-Know. But our Cyber Security Consultants, bless them, have constructed a fantastic seventeen-layer Virtual Security Ring-fence around our trade secrets to keep them safe and that is why you can no longer exchange emails with your line manager without causing a Priority One Red-Grade Lock-Down.
The conference is held in a secret deep-security basement which is kept nice and warm so as to incubate the seasonal coughing fit germs we have brought in with us. It is 4 pm, approximately 12 hours after I got up this morning, and the warmth has the inevitable effect on my brain cells, which also go into a Priority One Red-Grade Lock-Down. I hear the European Commissioner telling us why we need EU legislation on trade secrets that nobody actually has, and I hear the audience telling him that the English would have written the legislation better, but I’m not sure I hear all the bits in between.