Corporate espionage crimes are complex and can attract hefty penalties for the offender. Being accused and arrested for the crime can be frightening and difficult, but you don’t have to fight back alone. An experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyer can advise you on your legal options and help you create a winning strategy.
What Does Corporate Espionage Entail?
Corporate espionage is also known as industrial espionage or corporate spying. The Economic Espionage Act of 1996 defines it as the unlawful targeting or acquisition of confidential trade, economic, or financial proprietary, technological, or policy information. It entails misappropriating or stealing trade secrets for financial or commercial gains.
Industrial espionage involves:
- Stealing trade secrets by copying.
- Recoding confidential or valuable information or trade secrets to benefit a competitor.
It may extend to economic espionage, often sponsored by a foreign government, agent, or instrumentality.
What is a Trade Secret?
The Uniform Trade Secrets Act defines trade secrets as all forms and types of business, financial, technical, scientific, and engineering information. It comprises the patterns, techniques, methods, prototypes, devices, formulas, codes, compilations, plans, or processes that the owner has taken reasonable measures to keep secret.
The information also helps the owner obtain independent economic value or actual potential by not making it known or readily ascertainable to the public. They may hide this information graphically, electronically, memorize it physically, or store it photographically. People facing corporate espionage charges can contact a Tampa white-collar crimes attorney.
What Does Florida Law Say About Corporate Espionage?
The Combating Corporate Espionage in Florida Act became effective on October 1, 2021, after being signed into law. It aims to prevent intellectual property theft by foreign governments and their agents in Florida. Further, it provides several considerations for employers as they make efforts to protect their closely-held trade secrets.
Among the considerations are the rules for hiring employees from competitor organizations. Knowing what this law entails is crucial for employees as it helps them take the necessary steps to protect their trade secrets. It’s advisable to consult a Tampa white-collar crimes attorney for more legal guidance.
What Are the Forms of Economic Industrial Espionage?
Economic and industrial espionage takes two primary forms:
- Acquiring an organization’s intellectual property, for example, its production locations, manufacturing processes, operational information, or marketing strategies.
- Stealing a company’s trade secrets, using blackmail, bribery, or installing technological surveillance infected with malware
Governments can also be targets of corporate espionage. An example is when the perpetrator wants to know the terms of a tender to win a government contract.
Is Corporate Espionage Illegal?
While it’s not illegal to spy on a private company, it’s an offense to use unlawful means to obtain confidential information. For example, buying a company’s satellite images of its parking lot to determine the number of customers it serves is prohibited. Hiring a private investigator to spy on a business is also illegal.
Besides, gaining access to a company’s trade secrets without the consent of the intellectual property holder is prohibited. The federal government provides the harshest penalties for offenders who transfer to foreign governments or companies. The government may not pursue all espionage cases, but cases that merit criminal prosecution depend on the following:
- Type of trade secret misappropriated.
- Scope of criminal activity
- Evidence of foreign engagement
- The extent of damage caused to the intellectual owner
What Are the Penalties for Corporate Espionage Under the Combating Espionage Act?
Criminal charges for corporate espionage attract hefty penalties and should not be taken lightly. The crime is punishable as a federal crime under code 18 U.S.C. § 1831-1839 of the Espionage Act of 1996.
Anyone who commits corporate espionage is guilty of a third-degree felony. Trafficking of trade secrets is a second-degree felony and is ranked higher if the theft is for the benefit of a foreign government.
A crime conviction attracts a 10-year imprisonment term, while the fines depend on whether the perpetrator is an individual or an organization. Crimes committed by an organization attract a fine of up to $5 million or thrice the value of the stolen trade secret.
If an offender is convicted of corporate espionage, the court must order restitution, including the value of the benefit derived from the offense. For example, this may include expenses for research and development and other costs associated with the trade secret.
Victims of trade secret theft may also be entitled to injunctive relief through a civil cause of action. They may also get royalties where injunctive relief isn’t equitable. While these remedies are provided under the Florida Uniform Trade Secrets Act, an affected company may also be able to bring claims under both statutes. A white-collar crimes attorney in Tampa can help.
What Are the Possible Defenses of Corporate Espionage?
Facing corporate espionage charges can be frightening, but it doesn’t have to cripple you with fear. A Tampa white-collar crimes lawyer can help you create a solid defense strategy to combat the charges. Possible defenses include:
- Showing that the stolen information was not a secret because the owner didn’t adequately protect it or the information was common knowledge
- Arguing that there is insufficient evidence to prove the theft of trade secrets
A skilled federal corporate espionage lawyer can help you create a defense strategy unique to the facts and evidence the prosecutor provides against you.
Protect Your Rights and Freedom with Skilled Legal Guidance
Facing corporate espionage charges can be frightening because it is a severe offense. You can face extended jail time and hefty penalties if you get a conviction. It would be in your best interest to hire the services of an experienced espionage lawyer in Tampa, FL, to represent you. They can evaluate the evidence brought against you and fight aggressively to defend you.
Our firm’s lawyers have extensive knowledge of federal criminal cases and have a range of strategies to defend clients facing such charges. We are skilled in protecting their rights while providing them with aggressive defense and can do the same for you. Call us today to get started.