Michael D. Moberly – November 5, 2023  

Economic espionage is foreign sponsored – coordinated intelligence activity directed to the US government, private corporations, and/or university-based (corporate-government sponsored) R&D.

Economic espionage as defined by the Economic Espionage Act (USC 1831) is ‘designed to (a.) influence economic policy decisions, and/or (b.) unlawfully obtain sensitive-proprietary financial, trade, or economic information (including) critical technologies-innovations to benefit a (any) foreign government, instrumentality, or agent.’

Economic espionage involves acts of theft, misappropriation, and/or infringement of issued IP which can include proprietarily developed-held information and innovation designated as trade secret, via clandestine methods which may include, in some instances, ‘open sources.’

Economic espionage’ intent is to benefit a foreign entity, e.g., a government, business, and/or business sector by providing essential economic information for a competitive – time – market entry advantage, which-in-turn cause economic – competitive advantage harms and losses affecting the rightful originator, developer, holder, and investor.

Economic espionage activities generally-seek to be in proximity to various forms, contexts, and/or applications of intellectual capital, e.g., knowledge-knowhow, structural capital, e.g., processes-procedures, and/or relationship capital, e.g., associations, alliances.

Economic espionage recipients utilize that information (those intangible assets), absent time and costs of research and development to rapidly bring innovation to (internal – global) market at competitive – economic advantage.

Economic espionage as characterized in this post originates from my independent – long standing research which focuses on (a.) specific research and/or university-based researchers being targeted by particular-foreign entities and (b.) strategies and practices to safeguard and mitigate various risks, e.g., theft, misappropriation, infringement of university-based research and innovation.

My research interests in safeguarding – mitigating risk to corporate sponsored university-based research emerged initially while developing – teaching university courses in private-corporate security and loss prevention initially to/for physical-tangible assets. These initiatives – experiences transitioned to focusing on safeguarding – mitigating risk to corporate intangible-non-physical (information – R&D) assets which coincided with the national debate and passage of the EEA (Economic Espionage Act, USC 1831)

Economic espionage risk mitigation, e.g., introduction of safeguards (to university-based research and open collaboration environments) inevitably…

  • intersect with two time-honored principles embedded in academic research, ala academic freedom and open-scientific communication.
  • collide with today’s global economic – nation-state realities wherein aggressive and predatorial business/innovation development desires seek least costly, most lucrative, and more vulnerable tracts and sources to succeed.

Academic freedom – open scientific communication in university-research communities evoke settled principles of unfettered (at will) exchange and collaboration of experiential knowledge, knowhow, processes, and procedures.

Understandably, the sorts of intersections –and/or collisions (described above) routinely emerge when proposing – encouraging (the introduction) of safeguards – risk mitigation to university research environments as being prudent and/or obligatory. The introduction of information safeguards or discouraging unfettered discussion of research can spark immediate debate and challenge in public university R&D circumstances. In private sector R&D environments adherence to information safeguards and risk mitigation will likely-be-characterized as, obligatory elements to (a.) one’s employment, and (b.) business sustainability.

Too, in private sector R&D environments, researchers, external collaborators, and sponsors are obliged to recognize innovative, competitive, and valuable, and potentially revenue generating R&D initiatives, are likely to attract a variety of economic-competitive advantage, as well as ideological adversaries (globally). Risks can materialize asymmetrically @ keystroke speeds which prompts R&D environments to consider ‘risk’ vulnerability, attractivity, probability, and criticality.

Information safeguards and risk mitigation are no longer solely about ‘keeping things secret’, vis-à-vis a conventional trade secret. Instead, it is a matter of being fiduciarily prudent to be alert to and preferably mitigate the expanding forms of reputational risk, and assortments of costly and undermining mischief, e.g., revelations and/or premature disclosures for viral adaptations.

Each post @ ‘Business Intangible Asset Blog’ is experientially researched, authored, and produced by Michael D. Moberly, principal-founder of kpstrat. Posts are intended to provide readers with reliable perspectives and nuanced insights to their business things intangible.  Mr. Moberly is an experienced business intangible asset strategist and risk mitigator. You are invited to review many of his work products, books, and professional papers, at kpstrat.com, along with 1,100+ posts published at Business Intangible Asset Blog.

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