Florida’s trade secret laws are well on their way to an update.
The Senate took up a House bill Monday that would create the new crime of trafficking in trade secrets, a second-degree felony.
The upper chamber passed the bill unanimously with no debate.
A trade secret is a formula, process, device, or other business information kept confidential to maintain an advantage over competitors.
The new law specifically takes aim at foreign governments engaging in corporate espionage by reclassifying offenses one degree higher if the espionage is committed with intent to benefit a foreign government.
The legislation has the support of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who announced this bill among a package of legislation aimed at cracking down on foreign adversaries stealing intellectual property. DeSantis specifically called out China as a threat to Florida’s businesses.
About 80% of all economic espionage prosecutions brought by the U.S. Department of Justice allege conduct that would benefit China.
The House already passed its version, carried by Lithia Rep. Mike Beltran.
The bill would create the “Combating Corporate Espionage in Florida Act.” The law amends current trade secret theft definitions and crimes to include computer-related trade secret theft, and makes it easier for private individuals and corporations to seek compensation in state court for stolen trade secrets, and offers immunity to a person who discloses trade secrets to authorities during an investigation or legal proceeding.
Current trade secret laws have loopholes arising from advances in technology, according to a staff analysis.
“The criminal statute is outdated in that it requires you to actually take a physical item, which really isn’t the way people commit trade secret theft. They upload it to a cloud, they put it on their own USB, they download it onto their home computer. It’s not like 30 years ago, where you might print something, steal the blueprint, so forth,” Beltran explained after a committee hearing in March.
Sen. Jennifer Bradley carried the Senate version of the bill.