9-59.000 - Economic Espionage

9-59.100 Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (18 U.S.C. §§ 1831-1837)——Prosecutive Policy
9-59.110 Economic Espionage Act——Assignment of Responsibilities


9-59.100 - Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (18 U.S.C. §§ 1831-1837)——Prosecutive Policy

The United States may not file a charge under 18 U.S.C. § 1831 of the Economic Espionage Act (hereinafter the "EEA"), or use a violation under § 1831 of the EEA as a predicate offense under any other law, without the approval of the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division (or the Acting official if a position is filled by an acting official). Responsibility for reviewing requests for approval of charges to be brought under § 1831 rests with the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division which shall obtain approval from the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division.

The EEA is not intended to criminalize every theft of trade secrets for which civil remedies may exist under state law. It was passed in recognition of the increasing importance of the value of intellectual property in general, and trade secrets in particular to the economic well-being and security of the United States and to close a federal enforcement gap in this important area of law. Appropriate discretionary factors to be considered in deciding whether to initiate a prosecution under § 1831 or § 1832 include: (a) the scope of the criminal activity, including evidence of involvement by a foreign government, foreign agent or foreign instrumentality; (b) the degree of economic injury to the trade secret owner; (c) the type of trade secret misappropriated; (d) the effectiveness of available civil remedies; and (e) the potential deterrent value of the prosecution. The availability of a civil remedy should not be the only factor considered in evaluating the merits of a referral because the victim of a trade secret theft almost always has recourse to a civil action. The universal application of this factor would thus defeat the Congressional intent in passing the EEA. A more detailed discussion of the prosecutions of theft of trade secrets is contained in the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section's of the Criminal Division manual entitled Federal Prosecution of Violations of Intellectual Property Rights, (Copyrights, Trademarks and Trade Secrets).

[updated January 2020]


9-59.110 - Economic Espionage Act——Assignment of Responsibilities

Supervisory responsibility for prosecutions brought under 18 U.S.C. § 1831 rests with the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Criminal Division which shall obtain approval from the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division. Prosecutors are strongly urged to consult with the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section before initiating prosecutions under 18 U.S.C. § 1832. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has investigative responsibility for complaints arising under both of these sections. Cases involving importation of goods which contain or use the misappropriated trade secret may also be investigated by the United States Customs Service.

[updated October 2004]

Updated January 29, 2020