Industrial espionage is not a new phenomenon - in fact it has been around since the dawn of history.
Historical and literary accounts of spies and espionage appear in some of the world’s earliest recorded societies.
Egyptian hieroglyphics reveal the presence of court spies, while pharaohs employed agents of espionage to oust disloyal subjects and to locate tribes that could be conquered and enslaved.
Many spies dealt with written communications which then necessitated the development of codes, disguised writing, trick inks and hidden compartments in their clothing.
Egyptian spies were the first to develop the extensive use of poisons, including toxins derived from plants and snakes to carry out assassinations or acts of sabotage.
In the Middle East, one of the earliest intelligence agencies was established and agents gathered information about foreign militaries and economic practices from traders, merchants, sailors and other businessmen.
While in the orient, the ancient Chinese were so eager to preserve the art of silk making that they ordered death by torture for anyone who revealed their method to outsiders.
In more recent years there have been numerous cases of industrial and corporate snooping.
At the height of the Cold War in 1968, a supersonic passenger jet took to the skies in the Soviet Union shortly before the maiden flight of Concorde.
The Tu-144 was nicknamed Concordski in the West because it bore a striking resemblance to its Anglo-French rival.
According to papers smuggled out of Russia by dissident KGB officer Vasili Mitrokin, detailed documents spanning thousands of pages of technical specifications on new aircraft such as Concorde were stolen by a spy code named “Ace”.
However, Concordski’s commercial future was finished after one of the planes crashed at the Paris Air Show in 1973, killing 13 people.
Another case was when US defence heavyweight Lockheed Martin sued rival defence contractor Boeing in 2003 for alleged industrial espionage in the race for US air force contracts.
Lockheed Martin said Boeing had acquired thousands of confidential documents relating to its bid for a $2bn military rocket programme in 1998.
As a result, the Pentagon barred Boeing from rocket work and revoked $1bn worth of contracts with the company.
The ban was lifted in 2005 when the companies announced they were planning to bury their rivalries over US government rocket contracts by forming a joint venture.
In 2007, a Chinese trainee went on trial in France accused of copying confidential data from Valeo, the French automotive equipment supplier, onto her personal computer.
Li Li Whuang, 24, was dubbed the Chinese Mata Hari by the French media and was portrayed as the symbol of an Asian plot aimed at obtaining secret commercial and technical information.
Le Parisien newspaper said “She was seen as the foot-soldier who came to steal France’s industrial secrets.”
She was found guilty of breaking her confidentiality clause and of fraudulently copying computer files and sentenced to two months in prison, which she had already served.