At the Intersection of Technology, Law, and Business
December 18, 2019 - Litigation, Intellectual Property

Striking the Balance in Trade Secret and Corporate Espionage Disputes

Supreme Court Restricts the Extraterritorial Reach of U.S. Patent Law for Exported Goods

In 2017, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property issued a report to Congress estimating that the theft of trade secrets could cost the United States economy as much as $600 billion annually. In the years following, news reports indicate that alleged instances of corporate espionage and the theft of trade secrets continue at a rapid pace. But sometimes trade secret assertions can be overbroad, vague, and anticompetitive. Many commentators have cautioned that trade secret assertions should not be used improperly to inhibit employee mobility.

In a recent example of corporate espionage and theft of trade secrets, on November 21, 2019, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Haitao Xiang, a Chinese national who had previously worked for the Monsanto Company (now a part of Bayer AG), and its subsidiary The Climate Corporation, had been indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of conspiracy to commit economic espionage, three counts of economic espionage, one count of conspiracy to commit theft of a trade secret, and three counts of theft of a trade secret.

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