US clampdown on IP crime enters new phase

Victoria EspinelThe US is refining its fight against intellectual property crime to focus on activities that pose the greatest economic, health and security threats.

US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) Victoria Espinel (pictured) makes the assertion in the latest Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement, which expands on the initial report released in 2010.

The Obama Administration is seeking comment on the new proposals, which also say the US should strive to achieve greater cooperation between federal agencies, overseas authorities, rights holders and other stakeholders.

The latest edition highlights gains in law enforcement activity since 2010, including a 71 per cent increase in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with arrest up 159 per cent and convictions doubling over the period.

Customs seizures of product infringing intellectual property (IP) in the US have risen more than 50 per cent in the last three years, says the new report.

It also notes that seven out of 20 legislative recommendations to boost enforcement of IP rights - published in 2011 - have now been implemented, including tougher penalties for counterfeiting and economic espionage, greater levels of information sharing between rights holders and customs, and more powers for the FDA to destroy falsified and adulterated medicines.

Among the challenges facing those trying to tackle IP crime is the relentless increase in mobile device usage and connectivity, with apps being used to distribute infringing digital content, and 3D printing which could make it easier for counterfeiters to manufacture illegal and pirated goods.

As the next phase of the programme swings into action, the White House has revealed a raft of new measures in the strategic plan, many of which are designed to promote best practices among federal agencies and to get them communicating more effectively with each other and external bodies so that efforts are coordinated.

A review of US laws will be carried out to see if any additional changes are needed to improve enforcement, and an annual report will be prepared to gauge the contribution of IP-intensive industries to US Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

An inter-agency working group will be set up to identify technologies that can be used to improve enforcement capabilities at the border, and law enforcement agencies will look for ways to engage outside experts "to increase expertise on online enforcement approaches".

Other measures include an increased focus on intercepting counterfeits shipped through international mail and via express carriers, making sure new top-level domains do not become venues for IP infringement and potentially the setting up of copyright and patent 'small claims' courts to make it easier for smaller rights holders to defend their IP.

"Our nation rightly prides itself on the innovation and creativity that has been the engine of our economy throughout our history," says Espinel in the foreword to the report.

"Predictable and effective enforcement of intellectual property rights supports jobs, maintains our global competitiveness, and protects health and safety," she added.

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