If you have been charged with theft of trade secrets, our criminal defense attorneys can help. We have years of experience defending our clients against these types of allegations.
Our track record for success is impressive, featuring a number of jail free plea deals, dismissals, and acquittals. Whether you were wrongly accused or you’re facing a more severe sentence than you deserve, our representation will ensure you receive the most favorable result possible in your case.
We offer risk-free consultations, during which we provide entirely confidential legal advice free of charge. We believe that you should be fully informed of your circumstances before making any significant decisions, which is why we strive to ensure you walk away from your first complimentary meeting with no questions left unanswered.
Contact us today to meet with our criminal defense attorneys, so that you can begin turning your situation around.
Theft of Trade Secrets, Defined:
Trade secrets are confidential information a business possesses about their processes. Whether it’s a food company’s recipe or a manufacturing company’s production method, this information can be the basis of a company’s economic value. As a result, disclosure can be financially devastating.
Trade secrets are often the product of years of experimentation and development. Appropriating this information for personal or business use deprives a company of its right to sell a product it has invested substantial resources in creating. Economic losses can amount to millions of dollars, and a victimized company may never financially recover.
Trade secrets can be stolen by an employee or business partner for personal use, or sold to a third party company for economic value. Trade secrets can also be acquired by hacking into a company’s computer system, or through other forms of privacy invasion.
Generally, trade secret theft that occurs internally happens in breach of a confidentiality agreement, but the commission of the crime does not necessarily require a physical agreement to be violated. However, the information protected as a “trade secret” must not be generally known or reasonably ascertainable.
However, a trade secret does not have to be patented to be protected. While patentability requires that the information meets specific requirements, the qualifications of a trade secret for the purpose of a theft allegation do not have to meet such strict requirements.
What is required is that the secret was regarding an item involved in interstate commerce and that the person who stole it either did so to benefit himself economically, or to harm the organization economically. Thus theft of trade secrets is not always motivated by the desire to obtain the company’s good or service without paying for it. Trade secrets are sometimes stolen by a competing organization in an effort to weaken the victimized company so that the competing company can monopolize the market.
Theft of Trade Secrets by Statute:
Theft of Trade Secrets is governed under 18 U.S. Code § 1832. The statute prohibits intentionally using a trade secret related to a product or service involved in the channels of interstate commerce. The use must be intended to benefit someone other than the owner, and the offender must have either knowledge or intent that injury to the owner result.
Forms specified by the statute include the following:
- stealing, or without authorization appropriating, taking, carrying away, or concealing such information
- Obtaining such information by fraud, artifice, or deception
- without authorization copying, duplicating, sketching, drawing, photographing, downloading, uploading, altering, destroying, photocopying, replicating, transmitting, delivering, sending, mailing, communicating, or conveying such information;
- receiving, buying, or possessing such information, knowing it was stolen or appropriated, obtained, or converted without authorization.
Under the statute, an unsuccessful attempt can be punished as severely as a successful one, which means that damage to the organization does not have to result in order for a conviction to be obtained. Moreover, conspiring with another to take any of the actions described above, even if you do not take action yourself, will not reduce your liability.
Punishment for individuals can include fines and up to 10 years imprisonment. For organizations, the punishment can include fines of $5,000,000, or 3 times the value of the stolen trade secret to the organization. The value of the stolen trade secrets can include expenses saved on research, design, and other costs of reproducing the trade secret through the theft.
Theft of Trade Secrets, Defenses:
One of the best defenses to a theft of trade secrets allegation is that the information was either developed independently by the accused or that the information was publicly available.
Another defense is that the company alleging theft failed to keep the information secret. This could include cases where the accused did not specify the stolen information as a trade secret or did not instruct the employee to keep it private.
Finally, lack of intent is a common defense to theft of trade secrets allegation. Because your state of mind is a necessary element, the prosecution must be able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
Our criminal defense attorneys will go over all the facts of your case in detail, in order to determine the defense most appropriate to your circumstances. Our aim is to get your case dismissed as soon as possible. However, we do this by preparing your case as if it is going to trial so that even if the prosecution is unwilling to budge, we are prepared to succeed in the courtroom.
Theft of Trade Secrets in the News:
Cases involving theft of trade secrets allegations vary in severity. Below are just a handful of examples.
In 2009, a Swedish National was charged with two theft of trade secrets counts after he allegedly hacked into NASA and CISCO’s computer systems. While no customer data was misappropriated, each charge carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
In 2011, a Chinese National pled guilty to theft of trade secrets, after using his employment with Dow to deliver stolen trade secrets to individuals in Germany and China. Kexue Huang worked as a research scientist for 5 years at the agricultural company, during which time he was legally bound by an agreement prohibiting him from disclosing confidential information without Dow’s consent.
Huang worked with the German and Chinese residents to develop competing foreign companies using trade secrets, and also delivered this information to University students in the countries. Estimated losses resulting from the crimes range between $7 and $20 million dollars.
Huang was charged with one count of economic espionage, carrying a maximum penalty of 15 years, and one count of theft of trade secrets with a maximum penalty of 10 years. He was ultimately sentenced to 87 months in prison.
In 2018, a Chinese wind turbine technology company was convicted of stealing trade secrets from the United States company AMSC, resulting in $550 million in losses. Sinovel breached its agreement to pay $800 million in products and services, instead of stealing the technology and causing 700 AMSC workers to lose their jobs. As a result, Sinovel was forced to pay $32.5 million to AMSC, as well as an additional $25 million and $850,000 to other victims within a year of probation.
What to Do:
If you are facing criminal charges on theft of trade secrets grounds, the most critical step you need to take is to hire a criminal defense attorney. The risk of time behind bars, excessive fines, and permanent reputational damage is not worth the money you may save in the immediate by trying to handle this matter alone.
Our clients have notoriously expressed that our counsel was the wisest investment they ever made, after having their charges dropped, the possibility of prison taken off the table, their fines reduced to manageable amounts, their criminal record kept pristine.
However egregious your conduct, our criminal attorneys have the necessary tools to ensure you walk away with as much of your freedom intact as possible. When you retain us, we pursue your best interests as our own.
We hope you will get in touch with us for a risk-free consultation, whatever your situation may be. Even if you are merely concerned that your conduct may expose you to future criminal liability, our criminal attorneys can instruct you of your rights and responsibilities, so that you are fully prepared for the possibility of an investigation.
Moreover, if your trade secrets have been stolen, or if you want to make sure you are protected, our attorneys can help you develop a plan to address any damages you may have suffered, or to ensure that the fruits of your organization’s hard work remain firmly in your control.
Whether it’s next year, next month, next week, or even today, know that our criminal attorneys are here to zealously advocate for your best interests, starting the moment you arrive for your risk-free consultation. We look forward to assisting you.