Senator Coons attended an oversight hearing last week that demonstrated how U.S. intellectual property is a key driver of our economy and made clear the importance of IP enforcement efforts.
At the hearing, Victoria Espinel, the President’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, referred to a March 2012 report by the Department of Commerce that estimated IP-intensive industries contribute $5 trillion dollars annually to the U.S. economy. Chris thanked Victoria for her work to coordinate IP enforcement, which last year saw a 33% increase in enforcement activity stemming from just a 5% increase in funding.
Chris also pointed out that the Department of Commerce report looked only at patents, copyright and trademark, but did not examine the role of trade secrets. Like patents, trade secrets are advancements which enable a business to make something more quickly, more cheaply, or better performing. The weaving technology that allows DuPont to turn strands of fiber into Kevlar body armor is a trade secret, as is the formula behind Coca-Cola. Trade secrets, unlike patents, can last far into the future, so long as the owner keeps them secret and a competitor is not able to reverse-engineer the advance.
At the hearing, Chris also warned that trade secret theft is a growing problem and, in many cases, is done at the direction of foreign governments. “I can tell you,” Coordinator Espinel responded, “trade secret theft is an enormous priority for us, and I think it’s clear that . . . the negative implications for our ability to compete globally when we lose trade secrets . . . are very significant.”
Although the FBI increased the number of criminal trade secret cases by 29 percent last year, more work remains to be done. Chris is an original cosponsor of the Economic Espionage Penalty Enforcement Act, which aims to address the problem of low sentences for these crimes. Chris has also spoken about his desire to create a federal civil private right of action for trade secret theft, which would provide businesses with a uniform, reliable, and predictable way to protect their valuable trade secrets anywhere in the nation.