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Intellectual Property Crimes

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 48 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2011 Pages: 849-903
Ronald D. Coenen Jr.; Jonathan H. Greenberg; Patrick K. Reisinger
Date Published
55 pages
This article examines several areas of intellectual property law that provide the bases for criminal prosecutions of those engaged in intellectual property theft.
One section reviews Federal laws against the theft of commercial trade secrets. No Federal criminal statute dealt directly with the theft of commercial trade secrets until the enactment of the Economic Espionage Act in 1996 (EEA). The EEA establishes two prosecutable offenses that involve the theft of trade secrets: economic espionage that benefits a foreign government and the theft of trade secrets, which targets theft that benefits any person who is not the true owner. The second offense is applicable to both foreign and domestic trade-secret disputes. Another law, the National Stolen Property Act (NSPA) provides criminal sanctions for any person who "transports, transmits, or transfers in interstate or foreign commerce any goods, wares, merchandise, securities, or money of the value of $5,000 or more, knowing the same to have been stolen, converted, or taken by fraud." Other Federal laws that have been used to counter intellectual property theft are the Trade Secrets Act, mail and wire fraud statutes, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Relevant State law provisions are also briefly discussed in this section of the article. Another section of the article addresses Federal laws that target the counterfeiting of a trademark, which is "any distinct word, phrase, symbol, picture, or combinations thereof" that function to identify the source of a specific product. Other sections of the article focus on laws pertinent to copyright violations, with a separate section for provisions that target online servers; patent laws; and the descrambling of cable television and satellite signals. The concluding section indicates sentencing provisions for the laws reviewed throughout the article. 452 notes


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