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8050 Washington Ave. S., Suite 100
Eden Prairie, MN 55344
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Economic Espionage in Bones

The storyline of a recent episode of the television show Bones dealt with a homicide victim who had been hired by a company to steal a competitor’s trade secrets.  The victim obtained employment with the competitor in order to carry out the theft.  In this scenario, the victim would have been guilty of Industrial Espionage, the crime of Theft of Trade Secrets, one of the provisions of the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. 

Definition of Trade Secret in the Economic Espionage Act

The definition of what is considered to be a trade secret under the Economic Espionage Act is broad.  A trade secret is information including all forms and types of financial, business, scientific, technical, economic, or engineering information, which:

  1. the trade secret owner has taken reasonable measures to keep secret; and
  2. has independent economic value from not being generally known to, and not readily ascertainable through proper means by, the public. 

Trade secrets can include patterns, plans, compilations, program devices, formulas, designs, prototypes, methods, techniques, processes, procedures, programs, or codes, whether tangible or intangible, and whether or how stored, compiled, or memorialized physically, electronically, graphically, photographically, or in writing. 

Conduct Prohibited under the Theft of Trade Secrets Provision of the Economic Espionage Act

  1. stealing, or without authorization appropriating, taking, carrying away, or concealing, or by fraud, artifice, or deception obtains a trade secret;
  2. copying, duplicating, sketching, drawing, photographing, downloading, uploading, altering, destroying, photocopying, replicating, transmitting, delivering, sending, mailing, communicating, or conveying without authorization a trade secret;
  3. receiving, buying, or possessing a trade secret, knowing the trade secret to have been stolen or appropriated, obtained, or converted without authorization;
  4. attempting to commit any of 1 to 3; or
  5. conspiring with one or more other persons to commit any offense described in 1 to 3, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy.

6 Steps Recommended by the FBI to Protect Your Business From Industrial Espionage (

  1. Recognize there is an insider and outsider threat to your company.
  2. Identify and valuate trade secrets.
  3. Implement a proactive plan for safeguarding trade secrets.
  4. Secure physical and electronic versions of your trade secrets.
  5. Confine intellectual knowledge on a “need-to-know” basis.
  6. Provide training to employees about your company’s intellectual property plan and security.

This update was prepared by Jennifer Buss. Jennifer is an intellectual property lawyer at Vidas, Arrett & Steinkraus. For more information about this article, please contact Jennifer at 952-563-3018 or via email.

This update should not be considered legal advice. Your receipt of this update does not establish an Attorney-Client Relationship. We do, however, invite you to contact us if you would like us to represent you.


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