Today, as American companies work to protect trade secrets from criminals and nation-states committed to stealing intellectual property, U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) released a "discussion draft" of legislation to help prosecutors crack down on economic espionage and trade-secret theft. The Senators, who serve as the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee's Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee, also announced that they intend to hold a subcommittee hearing in the fall to consider the proposals.
"Trade-secret theft and economic espionage threaten American companies and our nation's economic competitiveness. Foreign thieves and hackers must not be allowed to escape accountability through loopholes in our criminal laws," said Senator Whitehouse. "I look forward to working with Senator Graham and my other colleagues in the Senate to ensure that our prosecutors have adequate tools to fight trade secret theft and economic espionage."
"There are different ways people can steal from you: a guy can walk up to you with a gun or he can just hack your computer while sitting on his couch in another country," said Graham. "Trade-secret theft and economic espionage can become forms of financial warfare. We must make sure we give law enforcement the tools to go after state-sponsored foreign hackers and organized cyber-thieves that are stealing our intellectual property."
American companies and workers produce the most valuable intellectual property in the world. Unfortunately, organized criminals and nation states have committed themselves to stealing what Americans have created through hard work and ingenuity. The theft of American trade secrets has grown into a particular problem and, as described in a November 2011 report by the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, this theft is increasingly being accomplished through cyber attacks by sophisticated foreign hackers. As a result, in February 2013, the Administration announced a new strategy to mitigate the theft of American trade secrets.
The discussion draft released today contains a series of proposals to ensure that existing criminal laws are adequate to prosecute and deter trade secret theft and economic espionage. These include provisions to ensure that the Economic Espionage Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1831 et seq., covers foreign-sponsored trade secret theft, that victim companies can weigh in on how to protect trade secrets during criminal prosecutions, and to ensure that foreign hackers that victimize American companies can be held accountable.