Intellectual Property Theft Defense Lawyers
Allegations of intellectual property theft can lead to both civil liability and criminal prosecution. If the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or another federal agency is investigating you for criminal intellectual property theft, you need to engage experienced defense counsel immediately.
In the United States, allegations of intellectual property (IP) theft can lead to substantial penalties. While IP owners can sue individuals and companies suspected of infringing and misappropriating their IP, intellectual property theft can also lead to criminal prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). In criminal IP theft cases, defendants can face penalties of years or decades of federal imprisonment and multi-million-dollar fines, and the grounds for challenging a conviction can be limited.
Combatting intellectual property theft by domestic and foreign entities is a top priority for federal law enforcement authorities. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), “[i]ntellectual property theft . . . is a growing threat—especially with the rise of digital technologies and Internet file sharing networks.” The FBI also states that:
In short, the FBI is targeting intellectual property theft in a broad range of cases, and individuals accused of stealing trade secrets, copyrights, and other IP assets can expect to face swift and aggressive prosecution in federal district court.
What is Intellectual Property Theft?
Intellectual property theft involves gaining access to and/or utilizing another person’s or company’s IP assets without authorization and through illegitimate means. It covers all types of IP assets – trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights, and patents – and it applies to all forms of infringement and misappropriation perpetrated through all methods. While federal intellectual property theft cases are increasingly targeting theft perpetrated through economic espionage, cybersecurity intrusions, and other high-tech mechanisms, individuals who walk out of corporate offices with physical embodiments of intellectual property in their possession are equally at risk for prosecution and conviction.
Theft of any form of intellectual property protected under federal law can lead to criminal charges. This includes:
- Trade Secrets – As explained by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), trade secrets, “consist of information and can include a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process. To meet the most common definition of a trade secret, it must be used in business, and give an opportunity to obtain an economic advantage over competitors who do not know or use it.” Theft of trade secrets is a criminal offense under 18 U.S.C. Section 1832.
- Trademarks – Trademarks are indicators of origin. Company names, product names, brand logos, and other similar identifiers can be protected as trademarks under the federal Lanham Act. Trademark theft is most often prosecuted as trademark counterfeiting, which is a criminal offense under 18 U.S.C. Section 2320.
- Copyrights – Federal copyright law protects the expression of creative ideas. Similar to trade secret and trademark theft, copyright theft can lead to both civil and criminal liability. Criminal penalties for copyright theft are imposed pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 2319.
- Patents – Federal patent law protects inventions and establishes exclusive rights with respect to new discoveries. While there is no federal statute that imposes criminal penalties for patent infringement specifically, individuals accused of patent theft can face criminal prosecution under the federal laws that proscribe wire fraud, identity theft, economic espionage, and other criminal acts.
What are the Criminal Penalties for Intellectual Property Theft?
The criminal penalties for intellectual property theft vary depending on the specific type of IP asset that has been misappropriated or counterfeited and the specific statute (or statutes) under which charges are filed. In all cases, however, the penalties are severe. Examples of potential penalties in federal intellectual property theft cases include:
- Trade Secret Theft (18 U.S.C. Section 1832) – Statutory fines and up to 10 years of federal imprisonment.
- Trademark Counterfeiting (18 U.S.C. Section 2320) – Up to a $2 million fine and 10 years of federal imprisonment for individuals, and up to a $5 million fine for corporations (for a first-time offense).
- Copyright Theft (18 U.S.C. Section 2319) – Statutory fines and up to 10 years of federal imprisonment.
- Wire Fraud (18 U.S.C. Section 1343) – Up to a $1 million fine and 30 years of federal imprisonment.
- Aggravated Identity Theft (18 U.S.C. Section 1028A) – Up to two years of federal imprisonment, served consecutively with any other prison sentence imposed.
- Economic Espionage (18 U.S.C. Section 1831) – Up to a $5 million fine and 15 years of federal imprisonment for individuals, and a fine of up to the greater of $10 million or three times the value of the IP stolen for corporations.
How Do the FBI and Other Federal Agencies Uncover Intellectual Property Theft?
In order to uncover intellectual property theft, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and other federal agencies rely on information received from various sources. Increasingly, these sources are private entities that either (i) have had their IP assets stolen, or (ii) operate businesses that may be used to facilitate IP theft or the sale of stolen or counterfeited products. According to the FBI:
Additionally, in many cases federal authorities are able to obtain testimony and other incriminating evidence from individuals who are alleged to be co-conspirators in intellectual property theft crimes. When faced with the prospect of decades in prison and millions of dollars in criminal fines, many individuals will be willing to do whatever it takes to mitigate their own sentence. At Oberheiden P.C., we are skilled at challenging the testimony of alleged co-conspirators and questioning the admissibility and probative value of evidence obtained from other sources, and our federal criminal defense attorneys can thoroughly evaluate the government’s evidence in your case in order to determine what defense strategies can be utilized to protect you.
How Can Individuals Charged with Intellectual Property Theft Avoid Conviction?
In order to avoid conviction when facing allegations of intellectual property theft, individuals and corporate targets must present comprehensive defense strategies focused on challenging all of the allegations against them. When presenting defenses to intellectual property theft, individuals and corporate targets must also be extremely careful to ensure that their attempted “defenses” do not expose them to prosecution for conspiracy or attempt. Under 18 U.S.C. Section 1349, charges for conspiracy to commit intellectual property theft and attempt to commit intellectual property theft can potentially carry the same penalties as completed (or “successful”) crimes.
With this in mind, what are some potential defenses to federal intellectual property theft allegations? Some examples of the types of defenses our attorneys may be able to assert on your behalf include:
- Lack of criminal intent
- Express or implied license to use the IP
- The claimed “IP” is not protected under federal law
- Unlawful search or seizure
- Other statutory, common law, and constitutional defenses
Why Should You Choose Oberheiden P.C. for Federal Intellectual Property Theft Defense?
If you are being investigated by the FBI or DOJ for intellectual property theft, you need to choose a law firm that has the resources and capabilities required to defend you effectively. At Oberheiden P.C., we defend individuals and corporate entities in federal intellectual property theft cases nationwide, and we have a proven record of success in high-stakes criminal cases. Here’s why you should choose our defense team to represent you:
- We Maintain an Exclusive Federal Focus – We focus our practice on federal matters, and this has allowed us to gain an intimate understanding of the federal investigative and prosecutorial processes.
- We have Specific Federal IP Theft Experience – We have specific experience in federal intellectual property theft cases, and we represent both domestic and international clients in these types of matters.
- We Put Former Prosecutors and Agents on Your Side – Our former federal prosecutors and investigative agents have centuries of collective experience on both sides of serious white-collar criminal cases.
- We Only Hire Senior Defense Attorneys – All of our attorneys have senior-level experience. Unlike other law firms, we do not hire junior associates or paralegals.
- We Make Ourselves Available to Our Clients 24/7 – As a client of Oberheiden P.C., you will access to the attorneys and former agents who are working on your case 24/7.
Schedule a Free and Confidential Defense Consultation at Oberheiden P.C.
If you are under investigation for intellectual property theft, we strongly recommend that you speak with a federal criminal defense attorney right away. To schedule an appointment with a senior attorney at Oberheiden P.C., call 888-680-1745 or request a free and confidential defense consultation online now.