Recently, a technical director at Valspar in Minneapolis was caught for attempting to steal $20 million of chemical formulas from the firm. His goal was to trade the formulas for a high-ranking position with a Chinese firm. For the attempted intellectual property theft, the former Valspar worker was sentenced to 15 months in jail. The story of intellectual property theft is a growing one in Minnesota and the United States.
Companies across the United States lose as much as $250 billion from intellectual property theft every year. In Minnesota, firms miss out on hundreds of millions of dollars. The companies in Minnesota most affected by intellectual property theft produce electronic circuits, advanced microprocessors, films, industrial coatings and medical devices according to a local FBI agent. Even though intellectual property theft is on the rise, prosecutions of such crimes do not always follow.
The prosecution of intellectual property crime is unique because companies affected by intellectual property theft are not always eager to admit a crime was perpetrated against them or pursue prosecution. According to law enforcement officials, companies that suffer intellectual property theft can be reluctant to pursue prosecution because they worry about their public perception and how public perception will affect their stock price. Stockholders may suspect something is wrong with a firm on news of intellectual property theft and the company may choose not to pursue their legal options in order to mitigate any worry.
On the flip side, a FBI agent based in Minneapolis says that once companies make the decision to prosecute, the prosecution has a “pretty high success rate.” The largest obstacle law enforcement faces in prosecuting intellectual property crimes is getting the company to cooperate.
Source: Star Tribune, “Fake goods, stolen secrets cost Minnesota businesses billions,” Jim Spencer, Aug. 24, 2011