US House Approves New Law to Discourage Trade Secrets Theft

A US House of Representatives committee has approved new legislation designed to make it easier for firms to protect their intellectual property from theft, including cyber espionage.

The House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 5233, the Trade Secrets Protection Act of 2014, on Wednesday.

The bipartisan legislation seeks to amend the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 to create a federal civil remedy for the misappropriation of trade secrets.

What this means in plain English is that firms can now seek civil penalties if they believe they have been the victim of IP theft.

The idea is to bolster the competitiveness of US companies on the world stage and in so doing boost the economy and protect jobs.

House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, ranking member John Conyers, IP Subcommittee chairman Howard Coble, IP ranking member Jerrold Nadler, and Rep. George Holding all released a joint statement.

They said that US trade secrets – worth $5 trillion in 2009 – have become more vulnerable to theft as a result of the globalized economy.

“While current federal law protects other forms of intellectual property by providing access to federal courts for aggrieved parties to seek redress, there is no federal option to do so for trade secret theft,” the statement continued.

“The bipartisan Trade Secrets Protection Act seeks to change that by allowing companies to seek civil penalties in order to protect their businesses from those engaging in economic espionage.  H.R. 5233 gives American companies a powerful new tool which will help them compete in an ever-evolving global market."

It’s no secret that US lawmakers have become increasingly exasperated by the scale of Chinese cyber espionage, which has extended well beyond the boundaries of military targets.

In May the government even took the unprecedented step of indicting five PLA soldiers from hacking unit 61398 for stealing “sensitive, internal communications” about intellectual property, trade secrets and information on strategies or vulnerabilities in US companies that could provide competitive benefit to Chinese rivals.

It’s unlikely any of them will make the mistake of setting foot on American soil to be arrested, however, nor is it likely this new law will dissuade their colleagues from hacking US companies for trade secrets.

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