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Progress on the Intellectual Property Enforcement Strategy

Victoria Espinel, U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, releases the first annual report outlining progress on the Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama re-emphasized our nation’s commitment to help turn America’s innovative spirit into economic prosperity for our people and our nation.  That is what my job and my office is all about.  America’s creativity and ingenuity cannot thrive without intellectual property protection and enforcement, which allows a revolutionary idea to blossom into economic opportunity.

A little over a year ago, I was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the first U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator.  A little over six months ago, I submitted to Congress the inaugural Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement (Strategy), which was developed as a result of significant public input (including more than 1,600 public comments) and the coordinated efforts of the Federal agencies that enforce intellectual property rights.  It included 33 specific actions that we committed to undertake to improve intellectual property enforcement.

In the little more than six months since we issued that Strategy in June, the U.S. Government has been hard at work taking the steps we identified to improve intellectual property enforcement.  Today, I have sent to Congress the first annual report outlining what we have done to implement the Strategy (pdf).  Some of the significant activities that I want to highlight for you are:

  • Voluntary Private Sector Action:  As a result of our efforts to work with those who make the Internet function effectively and efficiently, on Dec. 14, 2010 -- at a White House Health and Safety Forum -- I announced that American Express, eNom, GoDaddy, Google, MasterCard, Microsoft, PayPal, Neustar, Visa, and Yahoo! agreed to form a nonprofit organization with other private sector participants to educate consumers, share information, and take voluntary enforcement action against illegal online pharmacies. By preventing criminal actors from gaining access to consumers and attaining legitimacy through the use of online payment processors, the purchase of ad space or a registered domain name, these private companies can play a critical role in combating illegal online pharmacies that put American consumers at risk.
  • Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement:  In November, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative concluded the negotiations of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) with 38 countries, representing over 50% of global trade.  ACTA is the first international agreement entirely focused on intellectual property enforcement.
  • Increased Law Enforcement Action
    • In June and July, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) had two of the largest counterfeit good cases in U.S. history, each involving $100 million of counterfeit goods.
    • DOJ and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have focused on major trade secret cases, including two cases in which the harm from the theft exceeded $40 million (to Ford and GM).
    • In June, ICE HSI and DOJ launched “Operation In Our Sites,” cracking down on websites distributing counterfeit goods and pirated movies.  Thus far, the Operation has seized more than 90 domain names for websites used to sell infringing products and resulted in 30 million visitors seeing banners alerting them that the domain names had been seized.
    • DOJ, the FBI, and ICE HSI have continued prosecuting defendants under Operation Network Raider, which targeted the sale of counterfeit computer network hardware, including to the U.S. military.  That Operation has led to more than 30 convictions and the seizure of more $143 million in counterfeit goods.
    • Since June, the U.S. has led and participated in three global law enforcement sweeps, each involving more than 30 countries, with two targeting counterfeit drugs and one resulting in nearly 300 websites used to sell counterfeit drugs being taken down.
    • From Fiscal Year 2009 to 2010, the number of ICE HSI intellectual property investigations opened is up more than 41%, arrests are up more than 37%, and criminal charges are up more than 86%.  ICE and CBP intellectual property seizures are up more than 34%.  The number of FBI intellectual property investigations opened is up more than 44%.
  • Technology Neutral Procurement: On Jan. 7, 2011, the U.S. Chief Information Officer, the Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy and I issued a statement to federal procurement officials reminding them of the Administration’s policy to be technology neutral in procurement and that all technology must be properly licensed.

I was proud to report to Congress the good work that those of us in the U.S. Government are doing to fight infringement.  But we have much more to do and we will keep working.  Please keep sending us your thoughts, concerns, and recommendations.

Victoria Espinel is the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator