Secrets and Spies: Extraterritorial Application of the Economic Espionage Act and the TRIPS Agreetment
Robin J. Effron
Trade secret theft, the unauthorized use and appropriation of proprietary information, recently has received significant attention at both the national and international level. The Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (EEA), the first federal law to address proprietary information, criminalizes the theft of trade secrets. Article 39 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS), the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement mandating minimum levels of intellectual property protection for member nations, is the first international treaty to require protection of proprietary information. This Note explores the relationship between the EEA and TRIPS. The EEA is an unusually protectionist trade secret statute, controversial in scope even within the United States. The EEA gives substantive trade secret protection to certain classes of information and actions, providing guarantees that are more extensive than under the TRIPS Agreement. This Note considers these differences in the context of extraterritorial application of the EEA and the sovereignty interests of other signatories to the WTO. It examines the legal framework within which U.S. courts considering the EEA may limit the extraterritorial scope of the statute. Using principles of international law and statutory interpretation, this Note concludes that the extraterritoriality provisions of the EEA can be given a limited construction that gives force to both the statute and the treaty.