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Microsoft, US senators want to grease wheels of trade secret theft cases

Proposed law lets companies sue others across state lines

US Senators are mulling a bill that aims to change the way companies file claims of trade secrets theft.

Creatively dubbed "The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2015," S. 1890 would create legal procedures for businesses to file civil claims of trade secret theft at the federal level, just as they would for copyright or patent infringement.

Though stealing trade secrets is a federal crime, all civil cases related to such thefts are handled at the state level, meaning companies have to go through each individual American state to claim damages.

The bill, sponsored by Orrin Hatch (R-UT), would allow US companies to take their grievances to the federal courts and ask for measures including judgments and seizure of property against those accused of stealing trade secrets.

In short, it makes it much easier to haul alleged intellectual property thieves before a judge – or at least threaten to.

The bill would also call for the creation of regular annual reports to Congress covering theft of trade secrets and reports of incidents occurring over the past year.

Among the companies backing the bill is Microsoft. The Windows software giant, not surprisingly, favors the proposals, which would allow it to be more aggressive when pursuing cases against those it believes are ripping off its products.

Jule Sigall, Redmond's assistant general counsel of IP policy and strategy, said in a blog post that the law was necessary to keep up with the growth in hosted services and cloud platforms that store data in multiple locations across state lines, rather than in one centralized location such as a safe or corporate office.

"Our state-by-state system for trade secret protection was simply not built with the digital world in mind. In today's global economy, however, trade secrets are increasingly stored and used across state lines and even national borders," Sigall wrote.

"A uniform, national standard for protection will greatly benefit businesses of all sizes."

Currently, S. 1890 is awaiting review and approval by the house judiciary committee. ®

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