In February 2013, the Justice Department announced a federal trade secret enforcement initiative that rested in large part on encouraging American businesses to adopt best practices in the area and diligent pursuit of civil remedies, and on parallel criminal law enforcement. As noted in the initiative outline, “The Department of Justice has made the investigation and prosecution of corporate and state sponsored trade secret theft a top priority.”
Over the last ten days, events unfolded in New Jersey that showed this new policy initiative to be one involving real action. Those events began with a timely filed civil action by Epstein Becker Green (“EBG”) on behalf of Becton, Dickinson & Company (“BD”) that led to a May 31, 2013, restraining order against Ketankumar Maniar, a former BD employee planning to leave the country in days with BD trade secrets in his possession. The facts developed by BD and EBG, along with the civil court filings, were provided to federal law enforcement officials.
Realizing that the material Maniar had taken amounted to a “tool kit” for manufacturing a soon-to-be-released disposable pre-filled pen injector in which BD had invested substantial time and money, federal agents opened a investigation. They later executed a search warrant to retrieve from Maniar a number of storage devices and, on June 5, 2013, arrested him for criminal violation of 18 USC section 1832. The arrest was widely reported locally, nationally, and internationally after it was announced by the US Attorney for District of New Jersey and the FBI.
Such publicity is itself consistent with the initiative, which makes public awareness of the effort a foundational concept: “Highlighting [such cases and issues] can help mitigate the theft of trade secrets by encouraging all stakeholders, including the general public, to be aware of the detrimental effects of misappropriation on trade secret owners and the U.S. economy in general.”
Employers in the tech industry can take some comfort in knowing that the Justice Department’s initiative is more than theoretical. But they must remain vigilant and prepare to respond quickly when a threat arises.