A theft or misappropriation of a Trade Secret
and the remedies by which the law allows is specifically defined and protected under both federal and state law.
Federal Laws Protecting Against the Theft of an Idea
Trade Secrets are federally protected under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, specifically Title 18, Chapter 90, which punishes the theft of a Trade Secret and defines such theft as whoever, with intent to convert a trade secret, that is related to or included in a product that is produced for or placed in interstate or foreign commerce, to the economic benefit of anyone other than the owner thereof, and intending or knowing that the offense will, injure any owner of that trade secret, knowingly:
- (1) steals, or without authorization appropriates, takes, carries away, or conceals, or by fraud, artifice, or deception obtains such information;
- (2) without authorization copies, duplicates, sketches, draws, photographs, downloads, uploads, alters, destroys, photocopies, replicates,
- transmits, delivers, sends, mails, communicates, or conveys such information;
- (3) receives, buys, or possesses such information, knowing the same to have been stolen or appropriated, obtained, or converted without authorization;
- (4) attempts to commit any offense described in paragraphs (1) through (3); or
- (5) conspires with one or more other persons to commit any offense described in paragraphs (1) through (3), and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, shall, except as provided in subsection (b), be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.
Furthermore, any organization that commits any offense described in subsection (a) shall be fined not more than $5,000,000.
Virginia Laws Protecting Against the Theft of an Idea
Trade Secrets are also protected under state law in most jurisdictions and differ slightly among each state. For example, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Chapter 26 of the Virginia Code, specifically the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, grants state protection over Virginia Trade Secrets and defines misappropriation of a Trade Secret as:
- Acquisition of a trade secret of another by a person who knows or has reason to know that the trade secret was acquired by improper means; or
- Disclosure or use of a trade secret of another without express or implied consent by a person who
- a. Used improper means to acquire knowledge of the trade secret; or
- b. At the time of disclosure or use, knew or had reason to know that his knowledge of the trade secret was
- (1) Derived from or through a person who had utilized improper means to acquire it;
- (2) Acquired under circumstances giving rise to a duty to maintain its secrecy or limit its use;
- (3) Derived from or through a person who owed a duty to the person seeking relief to maintain its secrecy or limit its use; or
- (4) Acquired by accident or mistake.
Exact remedies for misappropriation vary for each state. Therefore it is important to consult an attorney to understand your legal rights relating to a Trade Secret and determine if these rights have been illegally taken from you.
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