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Trade secret protection strategy emphasizes real-world measures over cyber response

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The White House released Wednesday a multi-pronged strategy to combat theft of U.S. trade secrets, but cautioned against treating the problem as one solely of cybersecurity.

"These are understandably related issues, but separate," said White House spokesman Jay Carney shortly before the formal unveiling of the strategy (.pdf).

In it, the White House warns that the pace of economic espionage and trade secret theft against U.S. corporations is accelerating, and says "there are indications" of cyber intrusions in electronic repositories containing trade secret information.

But none of the strategy prongs directly involves a cyber response. It does say that the U.S. Trade Representative will look for ways to reduce trade in goods or services containing stolen secrets. In addition, the USTR could use an annually updated watch list of countries with intellectual property trade barriers to target weaknesses in trade secret protections, the strategy says. Remedies permitted against countries on the list, known as a Special 301 report, include initiating a dispute with the World Trade Organization.

It also calls for continued prioritization within the Justice Department of the investigation and prosecution of corporate and state sponsored trade secret theft. The FBI, it says, is expanding its efforts to fight computer intrusions involving intellectual property theft.

The intelligence community will play a role, the strategy says--through the sharing of threat warning and "awareness information" with the private sector, as well as informing companies about ways to identify and prevent trade secret theft.

The strategy also promises a 120 day review to determine if legislative changes are needed for better enforcement of anti-trade secret theft laws.

Included throughout the strategy are references to incidents of trade secret theft involving Chinese nationals or companies. A summary of Justice Department economic espionage and trade secret criminal cases prosecuted between January 2009 through the present included in the strategy annex shows Chinese national or company involvement in 16 of 19 cases.

For more:
- download the Strategy on Mitigating The Theft Of U.S. Trade Secrets (.pdf)

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