Judiciary Committee Approves by Voice Vote Trade Secret, Counterfeit Drug Penalty Bills

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar  

At a Dec. 8 markup session, the Senate Judiciary Committee forwarded to the full Senate by voice vote two bills seeking to increase penalties, one for counterfeiting drugs and the other for economic espionage.

The Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act of 2011 (S. 1886) was introduced Nov. 17 by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee's chairman (225 PTD, 11/22/11).

The bill would set the maximum individual fines to $4 million for trafficking in counterfeit drugs and to $10 for non-individual entities. Penalties for repeat offenses would be pushed to $8 million and $20 million. Furthermore, the U.S. Sentencing Commission would be asked to re-evaluate sentencing guidelines for such offenses.

Further Action Against ‘Cyberintrusion' Urged

The Economic Espionage Penalty Enhancement Act of 2011 (S. 678) was introduced March 30 by Sen. Herbert H. Kohl (D-Wis.) and it seeks to increase the potential penalties for the misappropriation of trade secrets for the benefit of foreign entities from 15 to 20 years (63 PTD, 4/1/11).

The bill was approved with a technical amendment, accepted without objection, adding to a provision requesting that the Sentencing Commission review sentencing guidelines for such offenses that the guidelines should “adhere to recent Supreme Court precedent.”

Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), who co-sponsored S. 678, said that “trade secrets theft is a vital threat to American manufacturing [and] American innovation.”

Both Leahy and Sen. Dianne G. B. Feinstein (D-Calif.) offered their praise for Kohl's efforts on the bill. Feinstein mentioned a recent report warning of espionage by Chinese and Russian actors.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) urged further action on increasing law enforcement resources for addressing “cyberintrusion” as a method of economic espionage.

Currently, Whitehouse said, law enforcement efforts against cyberintrusion are of “high quality” but “small quantity.” He complained of “woefully inadequate law enforcement on this new cyberborder to provide adequate protection to the intellectual content we're being robbed of.”