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What happens when someone violates trade secret protections?

On Behalf of | Sep 1, 2021 | Trade Secrets

Intellectual property protections can offer a variety of legal remedies. Whether a competitor attempts to steal a trade secret, trademark, or patent, the intellectual property (IP) holder can request an injunction. This will result in the court ordering the violating party to stop the actions that constitute a violation. The IP holder can also seek fines to make up for any lost revenue

Although beneficial to the IP holder, a violation can also result in criminal ramifications. The U.S. Economic Espionage Act makes the theft of trade secrets a federal crime. In addition to the civil remedies noted above, the criminal remedies that result from this law can include $250,000 in fines as well as up to ten years of imprisonment.

Trade secret violations are not uncommon

In a recent example, two individuals who worked with a tech business attempted to steal trade secrets from their employer. When faced with the evidence, they chose to accept a plea deal. The two worked at Genetech and admitted to stealing trade secrets on cancer drugs to sell to another company. As part of the deal, other criminal charges are dropped. It is not uncommon for an IP violation to result in other criminal charges, like wire fraud. In this case, the prosecution will only pursue criminal charges for conspiring to steal trade secrets and wire fraud.

In addition to these criminal ramifications, the company that received the stolen information agreed to destroy all related materials and stop the programs that were using this information.

The main takeaway

IP protections like trade secrets are powerful legal tools. Those who hold these legal tools and take the steps to enforce them can protect their business interests, as this case shows.