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house Bill H.R. 5233

More Protections for Victims of Trade Secret Theft

Argument in favor

Trade secret theft undermines the U.S. economy’s growth. This bill offers owners of trade secrets options in protecting their intellectual property.

Argument opposed

Creating a new federal trade secret law without standardizing state trade secret laws is going to make the legal process even more convoluted.

bill Progress

  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet
    IntroducedJuly 29th, 2014

What is House Bill H.R. 5233?

H.R. 5233 would amend the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 to create a federal remedy to trade secret theft.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines stealing trade secrets as "when someone knowingly steals or misappropriates a trade secret to the economic benefit of anyone other than the owner." It's a big deal. In fact, the FBI has been producing educational movies trying to promote public awareness of trade secret theft.

Currently, the law
does not provide victims of trade secret theft a civil remedy in federal court. The bill would give trade secret owners the authority to sue thieves in federal civil court, and make claims based on state laws, federal laws, or both.
  The bill would not preempt or supersede laws passed by a state legislature on the same subject.


Trade secret owners, people who misappropriate trade secrets, criminal & civil courts at the federal & state level.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 5233

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable. However, for context, the National Security Agency estimated that the cost of trade secret misappropriation to the U.S. economy is more than $334 billion annually.

More Information


Trade secret theft undermines the ability of companies to capitalize on technologies and practices that they’ve created — thereby helping their competitors. The misappropriation of trade secrets can happen between domestic rivals, or internationally, and often involves cybercrime.

It has been estimated that the U.S. economy loses over $334 billion every year to trade secret misappropriation. Collectively, America’s intellectual property (IP) has been valued at over $5 trillion, and IP-intensive industries account for 38% of U.S. GDP.

The bill would utilize language from the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA), which has been adopted in 47 states, although the actual implementation and wording of each state’s version can vary. The UTSA ensures that the owners of trade secrets can seek damages at the state level if their IP is stolen.

The Economic Espionage Act is the main law that protects trade secrets at the federal level, and can apply to interstate IP theft. But the Trade Secrets Protection Act differs in allowing for more expansive use of federal courts, including civil lawsuits, for trade secret owners.

This legislation doesn’t preempt the state variations of the UTSA. This has been called problematic by academics, noting that the bill is essentially creating another layer of complexity at the federal level without standardizing trade secret laws at the state level.


Sponsoring Rep. George Holding (R-NC) Press Release

Joint Editorial by the House Judiciary Committee - Business Insider

Bloomberg Businessweek


National Law Review

Info Security

Global Intellectual Property fact sheet - U.S. Chamber of Commerce

(Photo Credit: Fios1News)


Trade Secrets Protection Act of 2014

Official Title

To amend chapter 90 of title 18, United States Code, to provide Federal jurisdiction for the theft of trade secrets, and for other purposes.