On April 27, 2016, Congress passed the “Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016.” The Act (the DTSA) passed the House by a vote of 410 to 2. The bill passed the Senate April 4, 2016, by a vote of 87 to 0. Congress enacted the DTSA largely due to its concerns about Chinese espionage and online hacking by cyber-criminals.
The DTSA is expected to be signed into law promptly. Even before the Senate passed the Act, the Obama administration voiced strong support for it. The DTSA is intended to go into effect on the date of its enactment and applies to any misappropriation that occurs after that date.
The Act amends the Economic Espionage Act to create a civil cause of action for trade secret misappropriation. The federal statute previously provided only criminal penalties for trade secret misappropriation. Historically, trade secret misappropriation has been a matter of state law, commonly addressed under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The DTSA does not pre-empt these state laws. Instead, it leaves all state trade secret laws in place and creates the availability of an additional federal remedy.