This bill would enable individuals and companies to sue in federal courts to recover damages from the misappropriation or theft of trade secrets, while also ensuring the confidentiality of trade secrets during legal proceedings. A trade secret is a type of intellectual property that, unlike a patent, is concealed from public knowledge to give the owner an economic advantage over its competitors. Under current law, only the Dept. of Justice can file suit in federal court for trade secret misappropriation.
The owner of a misappropriated trade secret would be able to file a lawsuit in a federal district court, and the court would then be able to issue an order to seize any property necessary to preserve evidence in the case. All information gathered or stored by the court would be required to be protected from physical or electronic access while in the court’s custody. Any relevant civil suit filed in federal court must be initiated within three years of when the misappropriation should have reasonably been discovered.
Federal courts would have the following options at their disposal for remedying the case:
Grant an injunction to prevent actual or threatened trade secret misappropriation and take necessary steps to protect the trade secret;
Award damages for either the actual damages caused by the misappropriation, unjust enrichment not covered by the actual damages, or to require reasonable royalties be paid as compensation;
Award exemplary damages of up to two-times the award described above, plus reasonable attorney’s fees if the trade secret was willfully and maliciously misappropriated;
Award reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party if a claim of misappropriation is shown to be made in bad faith based on circumstantial evidence, or a motion to terminate an injunction is made or opposed in bad faith.
Any individual who confidentially discloses a trade secret to a government official or an attorney in the process of reporting suspected misappropriation would be immune from criminal or civil liability. Companies would be required to inform employees about their immunity under the above circumstances in portions of contracts or corporate policy documents that discuss the handling and use of trade secrets.
The Dept. of Commerce and the Patent and Trademark Office would be required to provide relevant congressional committees with a report on the theft of trade secrets belonging to U.S. entities by foreign governments or businesses.