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Should Trade Secret Misappropriation be Federalized?

September 17, 2014
Post by Blog Staff

The legal community (along with bipartisan legislation) has been discussing the creation of a private cause of action under federal laws for trade secret misappropriation – or trade secret theft. In light increased cyber-espionage and the apparent ease in which trade secrets can be misappropriated in the marketplace, Congress has taken an apparent interest in "strengthening" trade secret protections.

Currently, trade secrets are a matter of state law. This means that each state has established requirements for trade secret misappropriation. In sum, these require a finding that a trade secret holder has a "secret" with value as a result of it not being generally known by others (i.e. competitors), that the trade secret holder has taken efforts to maintain secrecy, and that the party alleged to have access or appropriated the secret used some sort of improper means. Although the precise definitions for these standards may vary among the states, there are relatively small distinctions among the states.

Both the House and the Senate may consider bills introduced as early as this fall to consider federalizing this cause of action. The "Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2014" ("DTSA") (S. 2267) and the "Trade Secret Protection Act of 2014" (H.R. 5233) have been introduced to create a private cause of action under the existing Economic Espionage Act of 1996. The DTSA as drafted would authorize a trade secret owner to bring a civil cause of action in federal court for either (1) a violation of the Economic Espionage Act (which criminalized types of trade secret theft), or (2) a “misappropriation of a trade secret that is related to a product or service used in, or intended for use in, interstate or foreign commerce.” The Judiciary Committee has held a hearing to discuss the benefits of the federal cause of action. A few of the purported benefits of establishing federal legislation would be to grant access to federal forums (based on the subject matter instead of matters of diversity and/or supplemental jurisdiction), along with granting access to federal remedies for seizures to prevent irreparable harm caused by trade secret misappropriation.

As expected, there are vocal critics of such federalization, including a group of legal scholars and professors (see opposition letter athttp://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/files/blogs/FINAL%20Professors%27%20Letter%20Opposing%20Trade%20Secret%20Legislation.pdf). As stakeholders continue to voice opinions (and concerns) over pending legislation, more information will be provided through Filewrapper.com.


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The attorneys of McKee, Voorhees & Sease, P.L.C. designed this blog as an informational and educational resource about intellectual property law for our clients, other attorneys, and the public as a whole. Our goal is to provide cutting-edge information about recent developments in intellectual property law, including relevant case law updates, proposed legislation, and intellectual property law in the news.

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