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It sounds like an episode of a television crime drama. Yet this actually happened in 2001, when two men tried to flee the country with trade secrets stolen from a few of the biggest names in Silicon Valley. In this case, the criminals were stopped in their tracks, but theft of trade secrets is a growing and evolving problem, says Matt Parrella, assistant U.S. attorney and chief of the San Jose branch of the U.S. Department of Justice's CHIP unit.
"It's growing in terms of the number and types of trade secret cases we're prosecuting," he says. "Three to five years ago we saw physical manuals being stolen, whereas today digital versions of schematics, data sheets, manufacturing processes and source code are at risk. And the number of complaints being filed and investigations pursued are dramatically on the rise."
According to a 2006 report from the
What companies hear about in the media is "probably just the tip of the iceberg," says Randy Sabett, a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in Washington, D.C., and a member of the firm's information security and intellectual property practice group. "There are probably a fair number of situations where people don't even realize their trade secrets have been stolen."
This was first published in May 2007