Lehman: “Time for lawmakers to protect America’s secret sauce”

Lehman: “Time for lawmakers to protect America’s secret sauce”

 

IIPI’s President and Chairman, Bruce Lehman, published an editorial in The Hill detailing the benefits of the proposed Trade Secret Protection Act of 2014 (TSPA).

Lehman writes that “America’s competitive edge is not based on cheap labor. Rather companies like GE, Caterpillar, Microsoft and Monsanto lead the world in their industries because of the creativity of their scientists, engineers, designers and marketing professionals.” However, in today’s competitive world, where businessmen need only click a button to steal a report detailing a scientist’s newest idea, the traditional methods of intellectual property protection are no longer enough. The United States must adopt a federal trade secret law – more specifically, the Trade Secret Protection Act.

Trade secret law is often overlooked in the world of intellectual property. However, it can be a powerful tool for protecting sensitive information that, if revealed, could damage a company’s competitiveness. Trade secret law is the shield and the sword companies use to guard their information and prosecute offenders.

Currently, trade secrets are governed primarily by state law. Yet the global landscape for corporate espionage has changed radically with the advent of the Digital Age, in which rival companies can access and steal trade secrets over the Web. In 2012, while serving as head of the National Security Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command, General Keith Alexander warned that cyber espionage is the “greatest transfer of wealth in history,” estimating that U.S. companies lose $250 billion per year due to theft of proprietary industrial information. Mr. Lehman noted in the editorial that while state law was “effective when trade secrets were stuffed into a briefcase and sold to a competitor in the [same state]” computer files can now be transmitted across the country with the click of a button.

The proposed TSPA would not supersede state law, but would provide an efficient and effective way for the private sector to police itself across state lines, through civil enforcement. If a federal court were to find that a trade secret has been misappropriated, the court would be able to issue a permanent injunction and impose monetary damages, including treble damages where the trade secret has been “willfully and maliciously misappropriated.”  The Act would also authorize surprise seizure of evidence or property necessary to prevent the dissemination of a trade secret in certain circumstances

As a residual effect, the TSPA would help frame the global discourse on international trade secrete conventions and help guide the world’s courts in developing a regime appropriate for the modern age. Bruce’s editorial can be read here.

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