Corporate espionage is the gathering of information by deceptive or illegal means. Let me draw the distinction between competitive intelligence and corporate espionage. Competitive intelligence differs from corporate espionage because it refers to the legal gathering of information from public assessable sources such as: newspapers, websites, trade shows, corporate publications and patent filings. Basically, any information that is obtained through legal and ethical means. Whereas corporate espionage is the assembly of information that is not available to the general public.
There are two main targets in corporate espionage; first, intellectual property, for example: formulas and recipes, industrial manufacturing procedures or techniques or ideas. Second, operational information such as: customer lists, pricing, sales, R & D, policies, planning and marketing strategies or prospective bids. Corporate espionage can take on many illegal forms; bribery, blackmail, surveillance or theft of trade secrets. The purpose of corporate espionage is twofold: either information theft or sabotage.