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U.S. Senate passes bill to combat theft of trade secrets

Legislation would give victimized companies recourse in federal court

by Glenn Hess, special to C&EN
April 7, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 15

The U.S. Senate has passed legislation that would give companies the right to sue in federal court if their trade secrets are stolen.

Trade secrets, such as customer lists, formulas, and manufacturing processes, are the only form of U.S. intellectual property for which businesses cannot take federal legal action to protect in the event of misuse or theft. Currently, trade secret owners must rely on a patchwork of state laws or the Justice Department to protect their rights.

“For too long, businesses in Delaware and across the country that drive our country’s innovation and economic growth have been losing jobs and revenue because their trade secrets are open to theft,” says Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.), cosponsor of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (S. 1890).

Studies estimate that the theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets, costs U.S. businesses more than $300 billion per year. For that reason, the bill has support from a wide array of companies, including DuPont, Dow Chemical, Pfizer, and Eli Lilly & Co. The White House also backs the legislation.

Supporters hope the 87-0 Senate vote will boost the bill’s prospects in the House of Representatives, where a similar measure (H.R. 3326), with more than 120 sponsors, is pending in the Judiciary Committee.


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