According to , "economic espionage can be described as clandestine or coercive attempts by foreign entities to obtain commercially or policy relevant economic information".
In , several further definitions are made:
Economic security is defined as the maintenance of those conditions necessary to encourage long-term relative improvements in labour and capital productivity and thus a high and rising standard of living for a nation's citizens.
Economic intelligence is commercially relevant economic information the possession of which could assist the relative productivity or competitive position of the owner. If economic security is the goal, economic intelligence is an important element in achieving that goal.
Economic espionage can thus be seen as the use of illegal means by a foreign government to acquire economic intelligence.
Finally, industrial espionage is the use of illegal means by a private sector organization to acquire economic intelligence.