A legal method to obtain information about new technology are patent offices. A technology for which a patent has been issued is publicly available. Thus, it is relatively easy to make copies of patent documents. Although it is not legal to use such a technology without paying royalties, it is almost impossible to persecute the violator if it is a foreign company in, for example, an Asian country.
Interestingly, in the U.S., there is a Law called Freedom of Informations Act, which can also be abused. In , the author describes the case of a Japanese company, which was about to enter the space industry in 1986. To gather information in this area, this company filed many requests under this act to get information from the NASA. In this case, in 1987 alone, the company filed about 1500 requests.
If these opportunities are not available, there are many ways to exploit modern technologies to obtain information. These range from eavesdropping by wiretapping, bugging offices or capturing cellular telephone conversations to penetrating computer networks.