On December, 2, 2015, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which is authored by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and would provide federal civil remedies for theft of trade secrets. At present, trade secrets are protected civilly only by state laws. Congress has considered enacted a civil counterpart to the Economic Espionage Act almost every year since that statute was created in 1996. According to reports, this year the chances for success are higher than ever.
Trade Secrets are the only form of intellectual property that is not protected by federal civil law. For a variety of reasons, including that patent protection has weakened in recent years, the importance and value of trade secrets has increased tremendously. Trade secret theft puts American jobs at risk and threatens incentives for continued investment in research and development in the United States. Supporters of the bill, including myself, believe that state laws do not adequately protect trade secrets and it is time for Congress to act and create a unified trade secret law in the United States. Victims of trade secret thefts should not forced to resort to creative and sometimes unsuccessful strategies to bring suits in federal courts.
The bill has received widespread support, apart from some academics who claim that such a law would cause more trouble than it’s worth. Some of the potential issues cited included chilling innovation in the U.S., increased legal fees associated with litigating trade secret actions, and overall negative economic growth. Att the Senate hearing, however, representatives from a variety of industries, including Delaware-based DuPont, explained the need for a federal private right-of-action to give companies the ability to protect their trade secrets in federal court.
“As an innovator, DuPont depends on intellectual property protection—including trade secrets,” said Karen Cochran, Associate General Counsel and Chief IP Counsel, DuPont in testimony to the committee. “Realizing the full potential of our innovation often includes knowledge-building that can span decades. This work generates a range of intellectual property from patents to trade secrets. DuPont recently defended the trade secrets for one of our well-known products, Kevlar®. This experience brought about our realization of the importance of S. 1890 and updating trade secret protection and remedies.”
The DTSA is currently backed by at least nine members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and has over 100 bipartisan Congressional supporters in the House and Senate.