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U.S. Senate introduces bill to crack down on Chinese intellectual property theft

By David Schwartz
Published: June 23rd, 2020

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) last week introduced legislation that would crack down on theft of U.S. research and intellectual property by China and other nations.

Spurred by cases like that of a former Cleveland Clinic researcher who is facing criminal charges for failing to disclose his ties to China, the bipartisan legislation would impose fines and prison sentences of up to five years on researchers who intentionally fail to disclose their foreign backing when they apply for federal grants.

It would also require that institutions who sponsor foreign scholars report to the State Department whether visiting researchers will have access to sensitive technologies. The State Department would also be able to deny visas to those who seek access to sensitive technologies, and the measure would create a U.S. government-wide database of researchers who have obtained federal grants.

According to Portman, China’s theft of technology and IP over the past two decades has helped fuel the rise of its economy and military while the U.S. government “has been asleep at the switch, doing almost nothing to stop it.”

The senator asserted that, if passed, the bill “will help us stop foreign governments from stealing our research and innovation while also increasing transparency to ensure that taxpayers know when colleges and universities accept significant foreign funding.”

Last month, a former Cleveland Clinic researcher who received more than $3.6 million in NIH grants was charged with wire fraud for failing to disclose his ties to Chinese universities and the Chinese government’s Thousand Talents Plan. The complaint alleges Dr. Qing Wang’s funding was approved based on the researcher’s “false representations and promises.”

The new bill proposes a criminal stature for that sort of misrepresentation, rather than having to rely on wire fraud statutes. “He was lying on his applications for grant research, and yet he couldn’t be arrested for that because it’s not a crime,” said Portman. “It will be under our legislation.”

The bill’s co-sponsors include Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the investigations subcommittee that Portman chairs. Carper said the bill would protect U.S. intellectual property from “foreign governments working to steal it, hold those acting in bad faith accountable, and improve the partnerships between our researchers and their foreign partners, and preserve our economic competitiveness around the world.”

Source: Cleveland

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