The phrase “white collar crime” refers to a broad range of issues that constitute illegal activity that is typically non-violent in nature and that one engages in for personal gain. Within the category of white-collar crimes is a sub-category: intellectual property. This is often digital but can also include things like patents or trade secrets. In fact, West Virginia judges often hear cases regarding one of the most common types of white-collar crimes: trade secret theft. If you’re accused of such crimes, it’s important to know where to seek support.
A trade secret is basically any type of information, system, software, recipe, ingredients, products or intellectual property that is owned by a person or group and gives the individual or company an edge over competitors. For instance, the recipe for a popular soft drink like Coke is a trade secret. If a person becomes privy to such secrets, then shares them with others to gain a profit or a career advantage, etc., it may constitute trade secret theft.
Trade secret theft can be a state level or federal crime
Depending on your circumstances, you might be facing a prison sentence, substantial fines and other repercussions if the judge who hears your case hands down a conviction. Some jail sentences are as long as 10 full years behind bars. Fines can be in the millions. Whether you’re charged at the state or federal level, you’ll want to explore all defense options available to you before heading to court.
For something to be a trade secret, it must create a potential for profit by its very possession. This means that the person or group who possesses the information or item, etc., gains an advantage by not sharing it with others. Several additional elements must be present as well, for the court to legally define something as a trade secret.
Independent development is often a defense
In the past, many people facing criminal charges for trade secret theft have defended themselves by claiming “independent development” of information. This defense strategy basically means that a defendant claims to have developed or created something from his or her own knowledge base. Another defense strategy is to demonstrate that the plaintiff did not take reasonable precautions (as required by law) to protect the trade secrets in question.
It’s also sometimes possible to argue that the information supposedly stolen was, at some point, part of the public record. Every case is unique, and if you’re facing trade secret theft charges in West Virginia, you’ll want to make sure that you employ the defense option that best fits your needs. It’s helpful to seek guidance and support before heading to court.