Legal Translation for Investigating Trade Secret Theft

Legal Translation Services for Trade Secret Litigation

We’ve blogged about the role of legal translation services in the context of trade secrets and intellectual property rights.  Each year, American companies lose billions of dollars when trusted employees or corporate “spies” steal invaluable trade secrets and leak them to competing corporations overseas.

Investigating the nature and extent of these trade secret thefts can be difficult, especially when it involves a corporation situated in a foreign land with employees who speak a foreign language. In fact, despite the thousands of thefts that occur each year, the Department of Justice filed just 15 criminal cases for trade secret theft in 2015, largely due to a lack of resources needed to investigate these complex and intricate cases. Moreover, there is currently no private right of action in federal court for trade secret theft. Thus, American companies are placed at an incredible disadvantage and must plead with state courts to protect their intellectual property if federal prosecutors cannot or will not.

The Defend Trade Secrets Act, which is currently pending before Congress and enjoys bipartisan support, would address this problem by creating a private right of action for trade secrets misappropriation in federal court. The Defend Trade Secrets Act would allow attorneys to seek court orders on behalf of their corporate clients to recover trade secrets before they are disseminated to competitors and before the companies are irreparably harmed. In order to prevent the Act from being used improperly, the bill would require companies to show the following:

1) that they in fact own the trade secret;
2) that the trade secret was stolen; and
3) that third parties would not be harmed if an ex parte order was granted.

But what can be done to prevent trade secret theft from occurring in the first place? Here are some practical tips for companies to consider in order to properly safeguard their trade secrets and other confidential, proprietary information:

1. Identify and label trade secrets so that employees and others are put on notice of confidential information. Regularly review and update trade secret information to ensure that appropriate measures are being taken to treat confidential information as such.
2. Require employees to sign confidentiality agreements prohibiting them from disclosing or disseminating trade secret and other confidential information as a condition of their employment;
3. Limit access to confidential information to only those employees on a “need to know” basis.
Allowing unfettered access to trade secret and other confidential information is risky and increases the likelihood of a breach. It also makes it difficult to determine, at least initially, the party responsible for the theft.
4. Companies should work with their IT department or an IT consulting agency to ensure that all of the appropriate cyber security measures are in place and are updated regularly. Companies may also want to consider implementing a “tracking” feature which logs each time an employee accesses confidential information.
5. For attorneys: in the event a corporate client suspects that trade secrets or other confidential information have been stolen and disclosed to a foreign competitor, consider working with a professional legal translation service, such as All Language Alliance, Inc., during the investigation phase to determine the nature and extent of the theft. Not only can a confidential legal translator service assist companies with their own internal investigation, but a certified legal translator can assist legal counsel in uncovering valuable evidence necessary for prosecuting employees for trade secret misappropriation in U.S or foreign courts.

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