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DOJ’s Increased Focus on Criminal Trade Secrets Cases

 |  September 18, 2023

By: Rebecca Guiterman (Grand Jury Target)

Trade secrets cases are on the rise. Most often, they happen when an employee steals confidential computer code or client lists or marketing plans. You may think of them as disputes between employers and employees (or, in one instance, by a marketing agent against an NBA star).

While the majority of trade secret theft cases are brought civilly, defendants also face the threat of criminal prosecution under the Economic Espionage Act (EEA), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1831-1832. This blog post provides an overview of the EEA and then highlights recent enforcement trends.

The Economic Espionage Act

The Economic Espionage Act was enacted in 1996 and contains two separate provisions that criminalize the theft or misappropriation of trade secrets.

The first provision, 18 U.S.C. § 1831, prohibits the theft of trade secrets for the benefit of a foreign government, instrumentality, or agent. A breach of § 1831 requires the government to prove four things…