For all of the dysfunction of Washington, I’m always interested in the bills that do make it into law. That this has happened with a bill aimed at combating economic theft is significant. It shows that amid the theater of polarized politics, there are essential issues that can still unify American politicians. And apparently, the wholesale and systematic theft of US innovation and invention online is one of them.
The Defend Trade Secrets Act also effectively extends the frontier of US law to a new place, wherever in the world US intellectual property is stolen and there is an American plaintiff. Increasingly, that place is China. Allowing ex-parte seizures will also recalibrate the penalties of economic cyberhacking against US targets. Don’t underestimate the impact of the law change.
If the internet is the frontier, this law sets the stage for a new sheriff, or more accurately, a new judge and jury, to come to town. I don’t mean this as some kind of America cowboy adventurism, either. But the concept of bringing order to an untamed frontier is a simple analogy for the public that speaks to the complex economic, legal and geopolitical reality of cybertheft.