Not Everyone’s a Fan of Hatch’s New Trade Secrets Bill

Orrin Hatch’s Economic Espionage Act passed unanimously in the Senate on Monday, but critics say the legislation is unlikely to actually prevent cyber-espionage unless it undergoes major revisions.

Reports MarketWatch:

Critics of a bill passed by the U.S. Senate to standardize trade secret laws across state lines remain concerned in the wake of its passage.


The legislation expands the Economic Espionage Act, allowing private companies or individuals to sue in federal court for theft of trade secrets when it occurs across state lines or internationally. That right had previously been reserved for the Department of Justice, leaving most trade secret suits to often disparate state laws.


“The Defend Trade Secrets Act is unlikely to achieve the goals stated by its sponsors – preventing cyber-espionage and creating a uniform law to govern trade secrets,” said Christopher Seaman, an associate professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law. Seaman has raised concerns about the bill since it was first considered two years ago.


The problem, the law professor says, is that the bill doesn’t actually address international cyber-espionage, focusing instead on punishing state-to-state theft of trade secrets.


That could change despite the bill’s approval in the Senate, as similar legislation awaits Judiciary subcommittee review in the House.


Proponents of the Senate bill said it would bring about changes sorely needed to prevent corporate spying.


“Under current law, companies have few legal options to recover their losses when trade secrets are stolen,” Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, the bill’s sponsor and co-author, said in a news release.


“For example,” Hatch said, “if a disgruntled employee steals a Utah company’s confidential information and leaks it to a competitor in Colorado, attorneys must navigate a complex labyrinth of state laws just to bring suit. This cumbersome process can take weeks, which is an eternity in a trade secrets case.”


But while Seaman and other critics acknowledged the need to protect trade secrets from espionage, they’re skeptical that this step actually addresses the biggest problem: Foreign-based cybercrime.