Economic Espionage Rationale…

Perhaps peculiar to some, economic espionage and misappropriation of proprietary intangible assets is the arena which I have been consistently focused since the early 1990’s. 

Throughout this period, I have been fortunate to have initiated and undertaken…multiple independent (investigative) research projects, most variously delving into the proverbial who, what, when, where, how, and value of…

  • intellectual properties belonging to (a.) U.S. private sector, (b.) university-based research, and (c.) their spinoff companies,  misappropriated by global economic – competitive advantage adversaries.  

One broad outcome to my ‘go to ground’ approach to investigative research is…I would be hard pressed to conceive of any rationale whereby economic espionage would be portrayed in other than the most adverse context, particularly how it has morphed today as becoming consistent and sophisticated barrages of cyber attacks, but still variously dependent on ‘human intelligence’.

Economic espionage and any of its variations, ala close cousins…are certainly not new phenomena as each have presented consistent challenges since man-woman first began etching distinguishing (trade) marks on their self-made (stone, wood, metal) products many centuries ago.

All that said, I remain intrigued however by the boldness of Drs. Whitney and Gaisford…(then) of the University of Calgary, in their 1999 paper titled ‘Rationale For Economic Espionage’.

I presume their paper was influenced, perhaps in part…by the passage of the U.S.’s Economic Espionage Act (EEA) a few years earlier.  While their perspective is thoughtfully articulated, and not without some merit, economic espionage remain as acts which most countries’, institutions, and companies find repugnant and devote substantial resources to combating.

Whitney and Gaisford posit the perpetrators – beneficiaries to… ‘economic espionage’ stand to yield strategic cost savings and valuable competitive advantages, no argument here!  However, those benefits – competitive advantages emerge at the expense of intangible assets held – belonging to others, and now misappropriated, often in the form of intellectual, structural, and relationship capital.

Still, Whitney and Gaisford suggest…when certain technologically advanced entities, holding powerful intangible assets, are targeted and spied upon, it’s feasible, they claim, that both parties may ultimately be better off.

The ‘better off’ in this instance, translates as…the ‘transfer of technology’ which some argue has become the primary path to world’s greatest transfer of wealth.  That part, through these lens, just doesn’t pass the proverbial smell test!  I suppose, in an alleged perfect world, these researchers’ perspective may have some (potential) legitimacy, I just don’t anticipate that occurring in the foreseeable future.

Michael D. Moberly  [email protected]  St. Louis  November 15, 2014 the ‘Business Intangible Asset Blog’ since May 2006, 650+ posts, ‘where intangible assets, business, and solutions converge’.

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