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U.S. Attorney Event Tackles High-Tech Corporate Espionage

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Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole speaks at Schoolcraft College Tuesday. Matt Roush photo.

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole speaks at Schoolcraft College Tuesday. Matt Roush photo.

LIVONIA — If you’re stealing trade secrets, the United States Department of Justice has a little message for you.

“We will hunt you down,” James M. Cole, U.S. Deputy Attorney General told more than 100 participants at “Protecting Michigan’s Technology,” a daylong program on protecting intellectual property held at Schoolcraft College.

Added Cole: “We will find out who you are, and we will prosecute you.”

Cole told the crowd that “Innovation in technology and manufacturing is the key to American prosperity. And we at the Department of Justice are doing everything we can to protect business from criminals who are trying to steal and criminally profit from your technology and your innovation.”

Cole said many American products are sought-after around the world, which “makes our companies ideal targets for intellectual property crime.”

And it isn’t just fake designer jeans or watches, Cole said. One recent congressional investigation, he said, found 1,800 cases of counterfeit parts over two years in Navy helicopters, antisubmarine aircraft and military cargo aircraft. Not only do fake parts put our servicemen and servicewomen in danger, they also drive up the cost of military maintenance, Cole said. And another pending case involves counterfeit seat belt parts, which could put drivers in danger.

Cole’s other examples included stolen tire design information and hybrid car technology.

The conference also covered protecting corporate networks from intrusion. Careless disposal of documents, careless management of IT systems, and decisions not to use encryption or change passwords regularly can result in intellectual property theft, he said. “Industry has a role to play as the first line of defense,” Cole said.

And Cole said companies who are victims of intellectual property theft have to be willing to bring in law enforcement.

“If there’s one message I want to leave you with today, it’s this: If something happens, if you have been hacked, or think you have, call us,” Cole said. “The sooner we can get in to see what happened, the more we can do.”

Barbara McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said she hoped that recent high-profile prosecutions of intellectual property thieves, some involving prison sentences as long as six years, would act as a deterrent.

“We hope that sends a powerful message about the power of the federal government when someone steals your trade secrets,” McQuade said. “They are the crown jewels of private industry. We want to help. We want to take your case.”

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