A New American Bill Would Disqualify foreign IP Theft Offenders from US

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A further bill designed to crackdown on IP theft, the ‘Stop Theft of Intellectual Property Act’ of 2020, was introduced in the US Senate last week.

It is not this bill, but on Thurs. last week, 2 US Senators introduced yet another bill designed to crackdown on the theft of US intellectual property.

Chinese

It is the latest in a number of attempts to counter foreign, i.e. Chinese-backed – IP theft.

Two US Senators, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) & Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), put forward the latest via legislation – The Stop Theft of Intellectual Property Act (S. 4370) – last week.

While previous legislation has tried to heighten awareness of the issue & drill down deeper into how the US handles foreign threats to research, this bill is largely centred around punishing perpetrators of IP theft.

Deportable

The legislation would make non-US nationals deportable, & inadmissible, if they have violated laws stopping the export of “certain goods, technology or sensitive information, or laws related to economic espionage, & the theft or misappropriation of trade secrets.”

Outcome

The outcome would apply to non-US nationals who:

  • Violate or evade any law prohibiting the export from the United States of goods, technology, or sensitive information
  • Violate any law of the US relating to the theft or misappropriation of trade secrets or economic espionage; or
  • Has been convicted of conspiracy to violate these laws.

STRATEGIC Act

The legislation follows another bill, introduced by members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee the previous week – The STRATEGIC Act, aka The Strengthening Trade, Regional Alliances, Technology, & Economic & Geopolitical Initiatives Concerning China (Strategic) Act – designed to formalise a strategy for competing with China.

While “tackling IP theft” was only 1 piece of the legislation, it came following news that 2 hackers, believed to be working for the Chinese govt, were indicted for conspiring to steal trade secrets & IP. As part of the indictment, it was revealed the 2 also tried to break into several US biotech firms that were reportedly working on a COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccine

“Attempts to hack a COVID-19 vaccine show just how high the stakes are when it comes to safeguarding America’s intellectual property,” Whitehouse commented last week of he & Grassley’s new bill.

“Foreign nationals engaged in trade secrets theft & economic espionage must be held accountable, & more needs to be done to stop researchers working on American soil while in league with our adversaries.”

The legislation was not a direct reaction to the indictment; Grassley, earlier this year, stressed the importance of a Government Accountability Office report that found that universities & US research institutions need to do a better job protecting data from foreign theft.

ITAR

That report, State & Commerce Should Improve Guidance & Outreach to Address University-Specific Compliance Issues (.PDF), was released in May, & looked at export controls like ITAR.

The report found that the US Department of State & US Department of Commerce could be doing a better job briefing universities about complying with export control laws to prevent data theft.

Pressure

This legislation is another instance of the US’s increased pressure on Chinese spying – at academic institutions, private industries, non-governmental organisations & elsewhere.

Only last week the US Department of Justice said the FBI has been interviewing visa holders in more than 25 cities suspected of hiding their ties to the Chinese military. Meanwhile, says the National Institutes of Health, 55 academic institutions in the US are looking into incidents involving IP theft.

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