Criminal Theft of Trade Secrets

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What Is a Trade Secret?

A trade secret is any idea, formula, process, pattern, physical device, or compilation that:

Is Theft of Trade Secrets a Crime?

The intentional theft of trade secrets is a crime according to state and federal laws. It is considered a white collar crime.

What Is the Economic Espionage Act of 1996?

The Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (EEA) is a federal law criminalizing the theft of trade secrets. Under the EEA, trade secret theft includes:

According to the Act, the U.S. Attorney General can prosecute any individual or business involved in the misappropriation of trade secrets. A number of states, such as Alabama and California, have also adopted the EEA into their state laws.

What If I Actually Figured Out the Trade Secret on My Own?

It is not a crime for a person to figure out the information designated as a trade secret on their own without using access to the company’s source of the trade secret. An example of this would be a person figuring out the exact ingredients for a recipe that is designated as a trade secret by experimenting in their kitchen at home instead of consulting the written recipe in the company’s database.

What Is the Punishment for Being Found Guilty of Stealing Trade Secrets?

Punishment for an EEA conviction may include:

Each state may have its own punishments for stealing trade secrets.

Will Consulting with an Attorney about My Case Help Me?

Yes, consulting with a criminal lawyer about the charges being brought against you will help you with your case. Stealing trade secrets is a serious crime with a long prison sentence and hefty fines. An experienced criminal law attorney will help you choose the best defense to fight the charge.

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Last Modified: 05-19-2015 04:45 PM PDT

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