US bill on IP heads to President Obama for signature

gavel and lawbookThe US Senate has finally passed legislation aimed at tightening up the country's borders against imports of fake and pirated goods.

The wide-ranging bill - called the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (HR 644 / S 1269) - was passed by the House of Representatives last year but has been held up at the Senate because of political wrangling over taxation elements in the legislation. It is now awaiting President Obama's signature to become legally binding.

One section of the legislation (Title III) aims to improve communication channels between Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and industry, by encouraging notification of the intellectual property rights holder promptly.

CBP implemented regulation changes last year that allow it to share information with trademark owners prior to seizure, while the current legislation now requires CBP to share that information "where examination or testing of the merchandise by the rights holder will assist in determining whether there is a violation," according to analysts at JD Supra.

CBP can, however, refuse to share this information where the information would compromise an ongoing law enforcement investigation or national security, it notes. Significantly, the act expands CBP’s authority to share information "beyond counterfeit trademarks to piratical copyrights and circumvention devices that are suspected of infringing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)."

Commenting on the new legislation, John Neuffer, president and chief executive of the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), said it "will help reduce this risk and root out of counterfeit semiconductors [which] pose significant risks to public health, safety and national security."

According to the SIA, the CBP has previously redacted images of suspect counterfeit semiconductors and delayed sharing information with companies that play a vital role in determining if parts are counterfeit and require seizure.

"Enactment of this legislation would allow CBP to use the expertise of rights holders in determining if parts are counterfeit, thereby helping prevent counterfeit products from entering the US," said the group.

President Obama will sign the act into law despite reservations about some elements of the legislation including "a provision that contravenes longstanding US policy towards Israel and the occupied territories, including with regard to Israeli settlement activity," according to the White House.

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