04.04.16

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee On Senate Passage of S.1890, The Defend Trade Secrets Act

Today, the Senate is voting on legislation that will provide a valuable tool to protect against trade secret theft. This legislation is supported by businesses from diverse sectors of our economy, including companies large and small. 

In Vermont, trade secrets protect the specialized knowledge of woodworkers who have made heirloom products for generations, and cutting-edge start-ups that are shaping the future of plastics, software, and green technology. Trade secrets protect the recipes for Vermont craft brews and closely-guarded customer lists for our top tourist services.  Today’s legislation provides an important tool to protect these innovative businesses in Vermont and across the country.

The Defend Trade Secrets Act contains a bipartisan provision I offered with Senator Grassley to ensure that employers and other entities cannot bully whistleblowers or other litigants by threatening them with a lawsuit for trade secret theft.  The provision protects disclosures made in confidence to law enforcement or an attorney for the purpose of reporting a suspected violation of law, and disclosures made in the course of a lawsuit, provided that the disclosure is made under seal.  It requires employers to provide clear notice of this protection in any non-disclosure agreements they ask individuals to sign.  This commonsense public policy amendment is supported by the Project on Government Oversight and the Government Accountability Project, and builds upon valuable scholarly work by Professor Peter Menell. 

Good, thoughtful work was done in the Senate Judiciary Committee to craft the bill we are voting on today, which builds on earlier versions introduced in prior Congresses.  It is a testament to how the Judiciary Committee can and should operate when it functions with regular order.  We held a public hearing on the issue of trade secret theft in the Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism during the 113th Congress, and another hearing in the full Committee this past December.  Senators suggested improvements to the bill, they debated them, and they voted on the legislation. 

Unfortunately, the regular order and fair consideration that was given to this legislation is being denied for one of the Senate’s most important and solemn responsibilities: considering the Supreme Court nomination pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Americans by a 2 to 1 margin want the Senate to move forward with a full and fair process for Chief Judge Garland.  The Senate today is coming together to pass trade secrets legislation, but that does nothing to absolve us from doing our jobs by considering the pending Supreme Court nominee. 

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