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CRS – Stealing Trade Secrets and Economic Espionage

Stealing Trade Secrets and Economic Espionage: An Overview of the Economic Espionage Act, Charles Doyle, Senior Specialist in American Public Law. August 19, 2016.

“Stealing a trade secret is a federal crime when the information relates to a product in interstate or foreign commerce, 18 U.S.C. 1832 (theft of trade secrets), or when the intended beneficiary is a foreign power, 18 U.S.C. 1831 (economic espionage). Section 1832 requires that the thief be aware that the misappropriation will injure the secret’s owner to the benefit of someone else. Section 1831 requires only that the thief intend to benefit a foreign government or one of its instrumentalities. Offenders face lengthy prison terms as well as heavy fines, and they must pay restitution. Moreover, property derived from the offense or used to facilitate its commission is subject to confiscation. The sections reach violations occurring overseas, if the offender is a United States national or if an act in furtherance of the crime is committed within the United States. Depending on the circumstances, misconduct captured in the two sections may be prosecuted under other federal statutes as well. A defendant charged with stealing trade secrets is often indictable under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the National Stolen Property Act, and/or the federal wire fraud statute. One indicted on economic espionage charges may often be charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent and on occasion with disclosing classified information or under the general espionage statutes. Finally, by virtue of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (P.L. 114-153), Section 1831 and 1832 are predicate offenses for purposes of the federal racketeering and money laundering statutes. P.L. 114-153 ( S. 1890) dramatically increased EEA civil enforcement options when it authorized private causes of action for the victims of trade secret misappropriation. In addition, the EEA now permits pre-trial seizure orders in some circumstances, counterbalanced with sanctions for erroneous seizures.”

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