Federal Criminal Fraud and the Development of Intangible Property Rights in Information

In recent years, new kinds of intangible property have become increasingly important in our information-based economy. In her ar-ticle, Professor Moohr addresses the responses of federal courts to fraudulent interferences with various kinds of this growing genre of property.Specifically, Professor Moohr begins with a historic overview of the development of the concepts of intangible property and fraud. She then traces Supreme Court decisions that adopt a narrow, restrictive application of traditional criminal statutes to intangible property and contrasts them with later decisions that indicate a shift to a much broader approach for protecting intangible property from fraudulent takings.Professor Moohr then posits that the criminal law forum is not an appropriate one in which to define the nuances of fraud and intan-gible property rights. Focusing on public policy concerns regarding efficient use of information and employee mobility, she recommends that courts restrict the use of traditional fraud statutes to protect in-tangible property. She offers two criteria-the public nature of busi-ness information and the objective economic value of nonpublic in-formation-to guide courts in determining which types of intangible property should be subject to the traditional statutes.* Associate Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center. B.S., University of Illinois; M.S., Bucknell University; J.D., American University. I would like to thank Paul Janicke, Craig Joyce, and Raymond Nimmer for guiding me through the intricacies of intellectual property law. I am also grateful to Irene Merker Rosenberg and to participants in the Young Scholars Workshop of the Southeastern Conference of the American Association of Law Schools for their comments. Jennifer Adamson and Craig Uhrich provided excellent research assistance. I lay claim to all errors. The George Butler Research Fund of the University of Houston Law Center Foundation supported work on this article.

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