Intellectual property rights are something that helps protect creativity. They include patents, trade secrets and copyrights. The law offers protection to those holding IP rights to allow them to have exclusive rights to use. The United States Department of Justice explains that protecting intellectual property is essential to the overall protection of the economy.

Intellectual property allows businesses to remain competitive. With no protection for IP, it can lead to an unfair market where no company can benefit from its own creative efforts. One of the essential types of IP is a trade secret.

The basics of trade secrets

A trade secret only has protection when it is kept a secret. Once the information is known to the public, all legal protection goes away. This is why it is paramount for the owner of a trade secret to keep it private. In addition, this is why there must be laws to protect trade secrets and help companies protect them. The Economic Espionage Act of 1996 helps with this.

Protection under the act

At the time the act went into effect, there was an increase in problems with people stealing trade secrets. The act offers protection on two fronts. The first is theft of a general kind where anyone steals a trade secret for any type of use. The second is more specific.

The act addresses the theft of a trade secret by a foreign entity for the direct benefit of a foreign government. Essentially, this is where espionage comes in as it is the stealing of information on behalf of a foreign government.

Beyond this specific protection and tie in with espionage, the act also works to provide protection for the trade secret during legal proceedings tied to the theft. It also helps to add civil relief and ensures anyone found guilty under the act can lose property he or she may have obtained due to the theft.