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Is intellectual property theft a federal crime?

On Behalf of | Aug 20, 2021 | Business Law

The growth of a business thrives with the creation of new ideas and other intangibles, but what happens when the rights of those who own these get infringed upon? The U.S. Department of Justice notes that intellectual property is often a target of theft, either by someone who wants to profit from the theft or by a business competitor.

When intellectual property theft occurs, the individuals or companies impacted by the crime may want to understand their options for prosecution and whether those accused will face felony charges under U.S. law.

Intellectual theft laws

Because intellectual property is intangible and much of it is easily duplicated by digital means, Congress keeps pace by consistently expanding its related laws due to the ever-changing face of technology. When this type of theft occurs in business, there are many different types of intellectual property crimes, including:

  • Software development plans
  • Copyright and trademark logos
  • Trade secrets

Most instances of intellectual property theft carry a statute of limitations of five years in most instances, and there are several situations when those accused may face federal charges for their alleged crimes.

Felony intellectual property crimes

Individuals who commit serious crimes related to the theft of intellectual property in business may face serious fines and imprisonment under the law depending on the nature of that offense. For example, trademark counterfeiting, labeling and the theft of trade secrets are all felony crimes. For prosecution to take place, the plaintiff must prove the accused knowingly committed the theft for profit or to gain an edge on the competition.

The theft of information and other types of intangibles usually occurs because of its ease of transmission and digital duplication. Victims of this crime may want to report their suspicions to the authorities as soon as possible to prevent any further wrongdoing from taking place.