Water Council FBI Intellectual Property Seminar

Last week, The Water Council hosted a seminar for the benefit of our members with Byron Franz, a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Franz’s lecture, entitled “Protecting Wisconsin’s Intellectual Property From Economic Espionage,” detailed precautions, policy and safeguards that every CEO and business traveler should know.


Franz has worked on national security investigations for over fifteen years. Prior to coming to the FBI’s Milwaukee office, he spent ten years in Indianapolis, where he was a member of the FBI Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT). He currently serves as the Strategic Partnership Coordinator for the FBI’
s Milwaukee Division, where his job is to form partnerships with Wisconsin’s corporations and universities to better protect their intellectual property (IP) and trade secrets.

The presentation centered on guarding trade secrets and IP when traveling and working with foreign investors and businesses. Franz explained that, unlike in the U.S., intelligence agencies in some other countries actively seek to steal IP from businesses around the world. Franz said executives can avoid theft of trade secrets and IP by taking certain precautions like leaving smartphones at home when traveling abroad, safeguarding against phishing email attempts, and ensuring that confidential IP isn’t unnecessarily distributed within a company.

Franz said that a large amount of international IP theft goes unreported simply because people don’t realize they’re under attack. According to the FBI website, six ways to help prevent your business from economic espionage are:

  1. Recognize there is an insider and outsider threat to your company.
  2. Identify and valuate trade secrets.
  3. Implement a proactive plan for safeguarding trade secrets.
  4. Secure physical and electronic versions of your trade secrets.
  5. Confine intellectual knowledge on a “need-to-know” basis.
  6. Provide training to employees about your company’s intellectual property plan and security.

If you have reason to believe that someone is trying to unlawfully obtain your IP, Franz says you should not hesitate to contact the FBI Milwaukee office. Counterintelligence is the FBI’s second highest priority after counterterrorism and economic espionage is taken very seriously. Visit the FBI’s website to learn more about counterintelligence efforts and how to safeguard your business against IP theft: www.fbi.gov/milwaukee/

You can also directly contact the FBI’s Milwaukee office at the following address:
330 E. Kilbourn Ave, Suite 600
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone: (414) 276-4684
Fax: (414) 291-2400

Events like this are an exclusive member benefit. If you are interested in becoming a member so that you may participate in future member events, please visit our membership page.

About The Water Council

The Water Council, the only organization of its kind in the United States, was established in 2009 by Milwaukee-area businesses, education and government leaders. With more than 150 water technology companies in the Milwaukee area, the region’s water industry is a $10.5 billion dollar market and accounts for four percent of the world’s total water business. The non-profit organization is linking together global water technology companies, innovative water entrepreneurs, acclaimed academic research programs and, most importantly, some of the nation’s brightest and most energetic professionals. The Water Council is capturing the attention of the world and transforming the Milwaukee region into a World Water Hub for freshwater research, economic development and education. The Water Council is located in the Global Water Center at 247 W. Freshwater Way, Suite 500, Milwaukee, WI 53204.
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