Top Secret File

Spies, Espionage, and Intellectual Property Theft

Government and military entities are not the only ones spying and conducting espionage investigations to protect our national security. More and more corporations and even small businesses are now hiring expert private investigators to conduct espionage investigations and counter-surveillance to protect “trade secrets” and other classified information.

Cases of economic espionage, industrial espionage, corporate spying and corporate espionage are commonly conducted for commercial purposes but can also include personal information that can later be used to blackmail, discredit and control enemies and competitors.

Espionage or “Insider theft” can cause significant personal and financial harm and described as an individual obtaining secret information without the explicit permission of the owner. For example, a corporation or company spying on another company’s activities, collecting data and information for gain or cause damage, most commonly through the doorway of employment.

Espionage involves clandestine activities. Though methods and motives of spying have changed over time, the desire to uncover competitor’s secrets has not. There is a war going on, and spying the primary weapon.

Federal Effort to Combat Economic Espionage

According to a 2015, CNN Politics Report “FBI Sees Chinese involvement amid a sharp rise in economic espionage,” the FBI announced the bureau has seen a 53% increase in economic espionage and intellectual property theft cases leading to the loss of billions of dollars.

Cyber ThreatThe FBI concludes “insider threats” or employees familiar with the inner workings of a company who obtain sensitive industry secrets in exchange for large amounts of cash are becoming more common and pose a significant threat to companies worldwide.

To combat this ever-increasing menace to American businesses, the FBI produced a video “ ” to raise awareness.

Private investigator Thomas Lauth, CEO of Lauth Investigations International, says, “Global trade of fake goods is damaging U.S. markets, along with theft by U.S. retail workers.”

Pirated and imports of counterfeit goods are worth nearly half trillion dollars annually with much of the proceeds going to organized crime, according to the OECD and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office.

Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods: Mapping the Economic Impact,” reports fake products like footwear, handbags, even strawberries, are commonly presented to the U.S market. While there is significant financial damage occurring, products like pharmaceuticals, toys that are harmful to children, baby formula, and failing auto parts are endangering lives.

According to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a 2015 Department of Justice press release, “The digital age has revolutionized how we share information, store data, make purchases and develop products, requiring law enforcement to strengthen our defenses against cyber crime – one of my top priorities as Attorney General, “said Lynch. “Companies like Sony and Target – have demonstrated the seriousness of the threat all business face and have underscored the potential for sophisticated adversaries to inflict real and lasting harm.”

While the Attorney General’s Office, FBI, Homeland Security and law enforcement are allocating more resources to combating intellectual property theft from dangerous outside adversaries, companies throughout the world are encouraged to take the necessary steps to protect their own intellectual property from outside and insider threats.

Insider Theft of Intellectual Property

Experts maintain upwards to 70% of a corporation’s value is found in Intellectual Property (IP). Insider threats come from the inside because the “thieves” are given access to their day-to-day employment.

The value of an organization’s secrets, product plans, customer data, and price lists cannot be underestimated. It becomes necessary to find a balance between productivity and protocol that allows a watchful eye to protect sensitive data and detect insider threat activity. Operational staff should be prepared with information to help them better understand how insiders can damage their agency, and in the various methods used by insiders. They are the front line to help battle IP theft crimes.

Insider Attack StatsInsider thieves commit crimes for varying reasons, to include gaining a competitive business edge, to start a competing business, or personal financial gain.

It is not uncommon for thieves to use networks to send internal server data outside of an organization. The most common method of stealing data is the use of external media such as a writable CD or USB mass storage device. Using corporate email accounts to send information off-site to personal emails and competitors is also common and requires monitoring to prevent such abuse.

It is necessary for organizations to identify risks and develop standards of best practices and policies that address the many ways IP can be exploited. These should include but are not limited to IT Security, removable media policy, controls and inventory, physical security, logs, and indexing tools to identify patterns in behavior. It is especially important to implement heightened security measures during reorganization, acquisition, downsizing, mergers or other organizational events.

Non-Compete Agreements Protects the bottom-line

Employee departures resulting in the scheming of trade secrets and clients has increased significantly in recent years. Many employees leave their employment to begin a similar start-up or pursue freelance work. As a result, it has become common for former employees to approach old clients, steal data, marketing materials and even share negative information to damage their former employer’s credibility.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, with the help of investigators, over the past decade, there has been an increase in the number of departing employees being successfully sued by former employers for breaching Non-compete Agreements (CNC).

Considered one of the most effective ways to prevent the theft of a company’s secrets, having a Non-compete in place and requiring every employee to sign it, can prevent damages that could otherwise last years.

Private investigation firms are playing a significant role in the effort to safeguard information, the detection of costly breaches and providing an evidentuary solution presenting facts when litigation is necessary.

Lauth Investigations International is working to prevent intellectual property breaches, global piracy, counterfeiting and insider threats with data mining experts and field investigators who focus on safeguarding IP and detecting violations utilizing sources that are not commonplace to HR and Operations Supervisors. “It is vital to be able to detect violations to prevent violators from reaping profits and expanding their worldwide market, where damage can extend for years,” says Lauth.

Brand Protection areas include:


Music and Apps

Tools and Hardware

Cosmetics and other Products

Logos and Authentic Branding

Indigenous Rights

Author Rights

Content and SEO Detection and Protection

Plagiarism, Marketing Materials and Website Protection

“Our investigators conduct trademark infringement for brands, large and small, trekking through some of the most complicated cases and vast markets such as Hollywood celebrities, apparel, and electronic clients,” says Lauth. “Our team provides intellectual property and litigation support for small business and corporations working with corporate executives, HR, and those in Operations Supervision to provide research and investigations, crisis intervention, employee screening, vendor and supplier screening, electronic discovery, surveillance, loss analysis, and expert testimony if needed.


Working to protecting your brand

Brand Protection Image

“Our private investigation firm will not only work with key staff and operations supervisors to identify current and potential breaches, we work with companies that operate throughout the world to implement the right policies and safety protocol to help protect their IP into the future,” says Lauth.

Lauth Investigations offers free consultations and guidance to help protect your brand. Following are a few tips to help you better protect your IP.

  • Protect web content and marketing materials by utilizing a DMCA account and protection badge.
  • Think globally. Obtain trademark protection for worldwide protection.
  • Set up a Google Alert to police your brand.
  • Obtain IP Protection for Copyrights, Trademarks, and Patents.
  • Register trademarks with the US Patent Office.
  • Develop a Policies and Procedure Handbook and have each employee review and sign.
  • Utilize Marketing Analytics software such as TrackMaven and Travel IQ for online tracking.
  • Monitor unregistered infringements.
  • Create various divisions for a more controlled environment.
  • Create a distinctive mark.
  • Develop and implement a Non-Compete Agreement.

For more information about how you can protect your IP, please visit or call 317.644.2788.

Kym Pasqualini, Lauth Investigations Feature Writer