United States V. Hanjuan Jin

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Trade Secrets, Economic Espionage Act
  • Date Filed: 09-28-2013
  • Case #: 12-3013
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 19767
  • Westlaw Citation: 2013 WL 5356805
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the EEA, a company does not have to actually lose money from the theft of a trade secret for a person to be found guilty of stealing a trade secret.

Opinion (Posner): Hanjuan Jin ("Jin") was originally convicted for stealing thousands of documents from Motorola, Inc. ("Motorola"). In the instant case, Jin was prosecuted by the United States under the Economic Espionage Act ("EEA"). The EEA defines a trade secret as information that has actual economic value, that the owner tries to keep from the general public. The EEA "elaborately" defines "'theft of a trade secret': the defendant must (so far as relates to this case) steal the trade secret for the purpose of conferring an 'economic benefit [on] anyone other than the owner thereof, ... intending or knowing that the offense will injure any owner of that trade secret.'" 18 U.S.C. § 1832(a). Jin appealed the decision of the lower court, arguing that because she stole documents pertaining only to antiquated technology and because never gave the documents to anyone, Motorola did not lose any money. The court held that the government did not have to prove that the theft caused Motorola to lose money, only that it had potential to lose money. The court determined that it was sufficient to find that Jin intended to eventually give the documents to another company or the Chinese Government or at least leverage her knowledge of Motorola's processes into a new job. Accordingly, the appellate court AFFIRMED the lower court's decision that Jin was guilty of stealing trade secrets.

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