The U.S. Senate passed legislation Monday evening that provides stronger protections for companies in protecting trade secrets. The Defend Trade Secrets Act was introduced in July 2015 and sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Chris Coons (D-DE).
The legislation allows organizations to pursue lawsuits involving theft of intellectual property, including information gained as a result of “espionage through electronic or other means” in federal court. The law does not prohibit independent derivation or reverse engineering of a product.
The legislation will be sent to the House for a vote.
The legislation is supported by U.S. corporations and industry groups, including, Adobe, Boeing, Boston Scientific, Caterpillar Inc., Corning Incorporated, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Eli Lilly and Company, Exxon Mobil, Ford, General Electric, Honda, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, and Siemens.
Several of these companies, such as Microsoft have been affected by incidents that would have been protected under the legislation. Many U.S. industries, including nuclear power, metals, solar products companies, petrochemical companies, and companies like Twitter and Lockheed Martin were also victims of cybertheft of intellectual property.
In a statement, Sen. Coons called the legislation “a long overdue update that will empower American companies to protect their jobs in the 21st century.”
The Defend Trade Secrets Act allows federal prosecution of rogue employees who steal intellectual property, such as in the insider espionage case brought against a former DuPont scientist. The legislation contains limited protections for whistle-blowers.