Corporate Espionage Fines Jump with New Trade Secrets Law
By Jeffrey Benzing | January 15, 2013 4:28 pm

Maximum fines are jumping well into the millions for those accused of stealing trade secrets to benefit foreign entities.

On Monday, President Barack Obama signed the Foreign and Economic Espionage Penalty Enhancement Act of 2012, which raises the maximum fine for an individual from $500,000 to $5 million. The maximum fine for an organization, previously set at $10 million, is now either $10 million or three times the value of the stolen trade secret.

This value includes the cost of research, design and other production expenses the organization avoided through economic espionage.

In August, then-House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex) said the bill would keep foreign entities from illegally benefiting from American innovation. In particular, he noted the threat U.S. companies face from cyber criminals.

“The economic and national security of our country depends on the security of our information,” Smith said in a statement after the House of Representatives passed the bill in August. “Reports show that our economy loses billions of dollars every year because foreign spies steal our intellectual property and trade secrets.”

The new law requires that the U.S. Sentencing Commission review and, when appropriate, amend the federal sentencing guidelines to address the seriousness of foreign economic espionage.

The bill passed the House Aug. 1 by voice vote and passed the Senate with one amendment by unanimous consent on Dec. 19. After the House agreed to the Senate’s amendment on New Year’s Day, the bill was presented to Obama Jan. 3.

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