Big News! After years of speculation and talking, it’s finally happened. Congress is seriously considering amending the criminal theft of trade secrets law (referred to as the Economic Espionage Act) to include a private cause of action. Soon, you too may be able to sue for theft of trade secrets in federal courts.
Last week, Senators Herb Kohl (D-Wis) and Christopher Coons (D-DE) introduced an amendment to the Currency Exchange Rat Oversight Reform Act that would amend the Economic Espionage Act to include a provision that would give private litigants the right to sue in federal court for the theft of trade secrets. Currently, the EEA is strictly a criminal statute and civil claims for trade secret theft must be brought in state courts, unless there is another basis for asserting federal jurisdiction. Since the EEA was enacted in October of 1996, the federal government has brought approximately 60 cases under the EEA. The amendment would enable victims of trade secret theft to seek injunctive relief and compensation for actual damages.
The proposed bill would amend 18 U.S.C. section 1836 to provide that “[a]ny person aggrieved by a violation of section 1832(a) may bring a civil action under this subsection.’ In turn, in order to prove a violation of section 1832 as it presently reads, the government must prove (1) the defendant stole or without authorization of the owner, obtained, destroyed, or conveyed information; (2) the defendant knew this information was proprietary; (3) the information was in fact a trade secret; (4) that the defendant acted with intent to convert a trade secret to the economic benefit of a third party; and (5) that the defendant act intending or knowing that the offense will injure any owner of that trade secret. To read a copy of the bill, please click on the following link for the Civil EEA.
My book, Intellectual Property & Computer Crimes,” (Law Journal Press 2003) contains a very detailed and up to-date analysis of the EEA, including a description of all cases that the government has brought to-date. (To purchase my book click here). In addition, as a federal prosecutor with the Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section of the United States Department of Justice in the 1990s, I advised Congress on the EEA and my law review article, The Prosecution of Trade Secrets Thefts Under Federal Law, 22 Pepperdine L.Rev. 59 (1994), was cited in the legislative history in support of the EEA. Finally, I also was the lead prosecutor in one of the first cases, United States v. Four Pillars, ever brought under the EEA.
Please post a comment about what you think of the proposed law.