Report after report has been generated and multiple warnings have been issued about the threat to the U.S. economy from intellectual property theft.

One recent report, from a publication published last month by the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive suggests that the economic dollar losses for research and development data theft could be as high as $398 billion.

When you consider future revenues that could have resulted from the sale of products and services based on this research, the economic impact if far greater.

Recently, I was made aware an incident that typifies the current situation for cybersecurity specialists in the private sector as well as the public sector.

An organization was researching a new chemical formula for a product. They hoped the new formula could be licensed and generate a new revenue stream. After several years the research work neared finalization, the organization began to look at creating a sales channel and implementing their marketing program.

During these efforts they discovered their systems had been hacked and the formula had been stolen. Much to their surprise they also discovered a patent application had been filed in a foreign country shortly after the breach occurred. Investigation into the breach indicated the cyber attack originated from a server in the same country where the patent application was filed!

Intellectual property has been called a “power tool” for economic growth. It is far more important than that, it is critical to national security.

In today’s technologically advanced society, intellectual property is highly valued and must be protected. Unfortunately the recent report is evidence that our most valued asset is the most vulnerable. The time to take decisive action is now.

Kevin G. Coleman is a long-time security technology executive and former Chief Strategist at Netscape. He is Senior Fellow with the Technolytics Institute, where he provides consulting services on strategic technology and security issues.