Senators introduce bill to combat theft of trade secrets, protect jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch, current member and former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation Tuesday to help combat the loss of an estimated $160 billion to $480 billion each year in the United States to the theft of corporate trade secrets. The Defend Trade Secrets Act would empower companies to protect their trade secrets in federal court by creating a federal private right-of-action.

Sen. Hatch said:

American companies utilizing technology to grow and create more jobs increasingly face threats to the trade secrets that help drive their success. The legislation we are introducing today takes a big step towards confronting bad actors seeking to steal intellectual property, and provides victims of trade secret theft with the legal protections they need. I hope Congress will act quickly to pass this bipartisan bill that will help American companies maintain their competitive advantage both here and abroad.

Sen. Coons said:

The intellectual property that drives the U.S. economy has never been more valuable, or more vulnerable. American companies are losing jobs because of the theft of trade secrets every day. This bipartisan bill will empower American companies to protect their jobs by legally confronting those who steal their trade secrets. It will finally give trade secrets the same legal protections that other forms of critical intellectual property already enjoy. Congress should step in now to stop the hemorrhaging of jobs and revenue being lost to the theft of trade secrets by passing the Defend Trade Secrets Act.

In today’s electronic age, trade secrets can be stolen with a few keystrokes, and increasingly, they are stolen at the direction of a foreign government or for the benefit of a foreign competitor. These losses put U.S. jobs at risk and threaten incentives for continued investment in research and development.

Current federal criminal law is insufficient. Although the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 made trade secret theft a crime, the Department of Justice brought only 25 trade secret theft cases last year. State-level civil trade secret laws alone have not been sufficient to stop interstate theft. Federal courts are better suited to working across state and national boundaries to facilitate discovery, serve defendants or witnesses, or prevent a party from leaving the country. Laws also vary state-to-state, making it difficult for U.S. companies to craft consistent policies.

The Defend Trade Secrets Act would:

  • Harmonize U.S. law by building on the Economic Espionage Act to create a uniform standard for trade secret misappropriation. Companies will be able to craft one set of nondisclosure policies secure in the knowledge that federal law will protect their trade secrets.
  • Provide for injunctions and damages, to preserve evidence, prevent disclosure, and account for the economic harm to American companies whose trade secrets are stolen.
  • Be consistent with the approach taken to protecting other forms of intellectual property, such as patents, trademarks and copyrights — all of which are already covered by federal civil law.

The bill has been endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and companies including 3M, Abbott, AdvaMed, Boston Scientific, Caterpillar, Corning, DuPont, GE, Eli Lilly, Medtronic, Micron, Microsoft, Monsanto, Philips, P&G, and United Technologies.

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