President Obama signed into law a bill that enables companies to pursue federal lawsuits to defend their trade secrets—and lots of companies are expected to sue.

The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 provides, for the first time, a right to file a civil suit in federal court over trade-secret misappropriation, similar to federal protection of patents, copyrights and trademarks. Prior to the law’s enactment, trade-secret theft lawsuits have been handled in state courts, where companies faced a patchwork of laws.

Law firm Ballard Spahr LLP noted in a client alert that the law doesn’t replace individual state trade-secret laws, but instead serves as an added layer of protection.

"Companies whose trade secrets were misappropriated in multiple states had to consider which state provided the best law or remedy to protect their interests. Companies were thus faced with the possibility of inconsistent protections, inconsistent outcomes, and, even where successful, inconsistent remedies," the alert said.