Governor Ron DeSantis signs groundbreaking legislation to combat theft of Florida’s intellectual property by foreign countries

MIAMI – Today, Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 7017 and HB 1523 — groundbreaking legislation that will protect Florida’s higher education institutions and government from foreign influence and combat corporate espionage, keeping Florida’s intellectual property safe within the state’s boundaries.

“Make no mistake — China is a hostile foreign power, and every Governor has the responsibility to protect their education system, and every other entity within their purview, from the espionage and commercial theft undertaken by the Chinese Communist Party,” said Governor DeSantis. “While China remains the biggest threat, numerous countries are working to infiltrate our state and nation. By signing these bills today, we are taking action to ensure foreign adversaries will not have unfettered access to our schools, government, and companies. I want to thank Speaker Sprowls, President Simpson, Representatives Grall and Beltran, and Senators Diaz and Bradley for their hard work on these bills to protect Florida from these threats.”

“Florida is, yet again, proactively taking measures to safeguard our constituents, property, and public institutions,” said Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez. “I applaud Governor DeSantis for signing the Combatting Corporate Espionage in Florida Act and Foreign Influence. These two bills put an end to foreign bad actors from infiltrating our state and hold criminals liable who actively steal our trade secrets and intellectual property.”

“Theft of trade secrets and attempts by foreign entities to influence various levels of government and academia have become an increasing concern, said Senate President Wilton Simpson. “I appreciate the leadership of Governor DeSantis and Speaker Sprowls in working to address these challenges in a meaningful way. It is important that we do everything we can as a state to protect free markets, government operations, and educational institutions from undue influence from those who seek to harm our country and our way of life.”

“Florida is at the forefront of rooting out Chinese espionage efforts that have resulted in the blatant theft of our state’s intellectual property and research,” said Speaker Chris Sprowls. “These bills add new tools by which our state can combat the CCP’s attempt to corrupt and infiltrate our premier research institutions and they reinforce our efforts to drive out illegal foreign actors who seek to steal from Florida’s taxpayers. We are lucky to have a strong governor like Governor DeSantis, and steadfast legislators like Chair Grall, Representative Beltran, and our Senate partners who understand the threat we face from the CCP and the bold willingness to take action.”

“Colleges, universities and public entities in Florida must be held to a high standard of disclosure and transparency when they are accepting gifts — especially from a foreign adversary,” said Representative Erin Grall. “This legislation helps safeguard Florida’s innovative intellectual property, research and science by shining a light on foreign gifts and contracts. It was an honor to sponsor the legislation and I’m grateful Senator Diaz, Speaker Sprowls, and Governor DeSantis prioritized this important work.”

“American ingenuity is second to none. Our enemies target our greatest asset, our intellectual property, to compete unfairly and undermine our economy,” said Senator Mike Beltran. “We will permit this no longer. This bill strengthens criminal and civil remedies against foreign agents and updates our trade secrets laws for the 21st Century. By doing so, we eliminate loopholes that wrongdoers have used in the past to escape liability and sharpen penalties for misconduct. It was an honor to work with Governor DeSantis, Speaker Sprowls, and my colleagues in the Legislature on this important bill.”

“For quite some time, the infiltration of U.S. intellectual property and research in our higher education institutions has been a concern,” said Senator Manny Diaz, Jr. “Now, this historic law will safeguard Florida from foreign influence and espionage seeking to do us harm. It has been an honor to carry a piece of legislation that is a priority for Gov. DeSantis, and I thank him for sending a strong and clear message to our adversaries.”

“We cannot sit by as the innovation and ingenuity of Florida companies is taken by our enemies,” said Senator Jennifer Bradley. “This legislation provides real security and action toward addressing the problem. I’m proud that with the leadership of our Governor, Florida is leading on the issue. I would like to thank my colleagues in both chambers for supporting this landmark legislation in Florida.”

For four straight years, Florida has been ranked #1 for higher education by U.S. News and World Report. HB 7017 protects that standing by demanding the highest accountability measures and disclosure from individual scientists, technicians, and administrators on foreign support for public entities and postsecondary institutions.

“I applaud Governor DeSantis for his foresight and prudence in leading the charge to protect Florida from any influence by foreign countries that wish our state harm,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “Nefarious actions by these bad actor nations to steal the hard work of our scientists and researchers is despicable. I am thankful Florida has a leader in Governor DeSantis who will always put Florida first.”

Highlights of HB 7017:

  • Strengthens foreign financial connection vetting and disclosure requirements for entities seeking tax-payer funded grants or contracts from state agencies or political subdivisions.
  • Creates heightened scrutiny of research grant applicants, foreign applicants for research positions, and foreign travel or activities of employees of major research institutions.
  • Requires universities and colleges to disclose foreign donations and grants of $50,000 or more to the State University System Board of Governors or Department of Education. State agencies and political subdivisions are required to report foreign donations and grants of $50,000 or more to the Department of Financial Services.
  • Prohibits specific agreements between state/public entities and the seven countries of concern (Russia, PRC, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela).

Highlights of HB 1523 (Combatting Corporate Espionage in Florida Act):

  • Creates new criminal offenses in Florida for the theft and trafficking of trade secrets.
  • Anyone who willfully and without authorization steals or attempts to steal a trade secret and use it for their own benefit will now face a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Individuals attempting to sell stolen trade secrets will face a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison
  • If an individual or entity violates this law on behalf of a foreign government, the penalties are severely enhanced — reclassifying the felony one degree higher and increasing the offense severity ranking.

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