White House Unveils Strategy To Stem Trade Secret Theft

The White House announced its strategy to protect against trade secret theft Wednesday, just one day after a report indicated a Chinese military unit may be responsible for a string of cyber attacks on American infrastructure and corporations.

"The theft of trade secrets impacts national security, undermines our global competitiveness, diminishes U.S. exports process and puts American jobs at risk," Victoria Espinel, U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, said at a White House meeting on Wednesday. "As an administration, we will be vigilant in addressing threats including corporate and state sponsored trade secret theft that jeopardize our status as the world's leader for innovation. We will act vigorously to combat theft of U.S. trade secrets that could be used by foreign companies or by foreign governments to gain an unfair economic edge."

Attorney General Eric Holder echoed the sentiment, saying the U.S. needs to increase cooperation and coordination "between partners at every level of government [and] improve engagement with the corporations represented in this room today." He added that "continuing technological expansion and accelerating globalization" will only lead to a dramatic "increase in the threat posed by trade secret theft in the years ahead."

The administration's plan calls for a more aggressive diplomatic push to convey concerns to countries with high incidents of trade secret thefts; it also calls for working with the private sector, increasing coordination within the law enforcement and intelligence community, ensuring laws are as effective as possible, and continuing to raise public awareness of the threats trade secret thefts pose to the country.

There was no mention Wednesday of the report that linked a Chinese military unit to cyber attacks against companies in the United States, but officials did cite cases of previous incidents with China involving trade secret theft.

"With respect to China, protection of intellectual property and trade secrets remains a serious and highly troubling issue," said Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats, who emphasized China is not the only country involved in trade secret theft. "That's why cyber security and protection of IPR and trade secrets are among the main items that we have discussed with the Chinese over the years in our annual strategic dialogue that we hold with the Chinese."

Last week, the president issued an executive order that directed federal agencies to share information about electronic threats with companies working on U.S. infrastructure and required the development of a framework of cybersecurity practices to protect against risks to critical infrastructure.

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