December 20, 2020

Senate Passes Van Hollen, Sasse Bill to Punish Foreign Companies, Individuals for IP Theft

Today, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the bipartisan Protecting American Intellectual Property Act, legislation authored by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) to mandate strong economic penalties on firms and individuals involved in stealing American intellectual property. The Senators’ bill requires sanctions on individuals and firms found to engage in, benefit from, or enable the significant and serial theft of U.S. intellectual property. 

“Foreign companies are working overtime to steal U.S. technology, damaging our economy and our national security in the process. The need to fight back could not be more urgent – especially after the series of cyberattacks we have witnessed aimed at the COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S. cannot sit idly by as these companies – and the governments enabling them – cheat their way to success,” said Senator Van Hollen. “This bill draws a line in the sand – outlining clear consequences these bad actors will face if they steal American innovation and technology. I was proud to work with Senator Sasse on this bipartisan effort, and I’m glad to see the Senate act to hold these foreign entities accountable and protect American jobs. I urge the House to take up this bill immediately.”

“This is a big step forward. Senator Van Hollen and I have worked hard to get this passed in the Senate — and we urge the House act quickly take up this bipartisan legislation. We can't afford more delay. China’s thieves and hackers have been robbing American companies of our intellectual property, and it’s time we get serious about using our economic tools — like sanctions — to fight back,” said Senator Sasse. 


The Protecting American Intellectual Property Act requires a report to Congress every six months identifying:

  • Any individual or firm that has engaged in, benefitted from, or materially assisted the significant theft of U.S. trade secrets, if that theft constitutes a major threat to the national security, foreign policy, economic health or financial stability of the United States; and,
  • The chief executive officers and board members of the reported firms and whether those individuals have benefitted from the significant theft of U.S. trade secrets

Subsequently, the bill requires:

  • For any firm identified in the report to Congress, the President must impose either property blocking sanctions or prohibit U.S. exports to that firm
  • For any individual identified in the report to Congress, the President must impose property blocking sanctions and must prohibit the individual’s entry into the United States.

The economic penalties imposed terminate if the President certifies to Congress that the individual or firm is no longer engaged in the sanctionable behavior. The legislation also includes a national interest waiver. 

The text of the Protecting American Intellectual Property Act is available here