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Washington and Lee Law Review Online

Abstract

Within the past few years, the U.S. federal government has been forced to confront the massive but hard-to-quantify problem of foreign and state-sponsored cyberespionage against U.S. corporations, from Boeing to small technology start-ups, and (as of this writing) perhaps Sony Pictures Entertainment. As part of that effort, Congress has taken up the Defend Trade Secrets Act and the Trade Secret Protection Act, which would create a private cause of action under the federal Economic Espionage Act. This Article addresses the possibility of introducing trolling behavior—using litigation as a means to extract settlement payments from unsuspecting defendants—to trade secret law through creation of a federal private trade secret misappropriation cause of action. Like the existing problem of patent trolls, trade secret trolling has the potential to undermine the structure of trade secret law and create serious problems and costs for innovators across all industries. Thus, this Article addresses the heretofore unexplored link between patent and trade secret trolling established by this legislation. It assesses in detail the benefits and downsides of creation of a federal trade secret misappropriation cause of action and, for the first time, the risk of trolling.

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