IPEC Releases Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement

June 22, 2010. The Executive Office of the President's (EOP) Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator released a document [65 pages in PDF] titled "2010 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement".

Victoria Espinel, the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), released the report at an event at the White House on June 22. She was joined by Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. See, video of White House event.

The IPEC is a new position, created in the 110th Congress by Section 301 of S 3325 [LOC | WW], the "Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO-IP) Act of 2008". See, story titled "Congress Passes IPR Enforcement Bill" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,836, October 1, 2008, and story titled "Obama Names Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,990, September 27, 2009.

The report reaffirms the commitment of federal government agencies to protecting intellectual property rights (IPR), summarizes the relevant activities of various federal agencies, and addresses coordination among agencies. It is not a vehicle for announcing new policy initiatives.

Summary of IPEC Report. Espinel stated in an introduction to the report that "Intellectual property laws and rights provide certainty and predictability for consumers and producers in the exchange of innovative and creative products, and for investors shifting capital to their development. Where there are insufficient resources, ability, or political will to appropriately enforce these rights, exchanges between investors, producers and consumers may be inefficient, corrupt or even dangerous."

She also stated that the federal government will "support transparency in the development of enforcement policy", "improve coordination", "work with our trading partners", "secure supply chains to stem the flow of infringing products at our borders", and "improve data and information collection".

She concluded that the federal government will "maintain an open, fair and balanced environment for American intellectual property rightholders".

The report states that "The Internet and other technological innovations have revolutionized society and the way we obtain information and purchase products. Lowering barriers to entry and creating global distribution channels, they have opened new markets and opportunities for American exports of information, goods and services, including enabling small and medium sized businesses to reach consumers worldwide. These innovations have also facilitated piracy and counterfeiting on a global scale. Counterfeiters have developed sophisticated distribution networks. Today, the Internet allows for a person who illegally ``camcords´´ a film at a movie theater in Moscow to distribute a bootleg copy across the globe with the push of a button. A company in Delhi producing counterfeit pharmaceuticals can instantly create a global market. Counterfeiters in Shenzhen making routers and switches can infiltrate supply chains in the U.S."

The report continues that "These thieves impose substantial costs. They depress investment in technologies needed to meet global challenges. They put consumers, families and communities at risk. They unfairly devalue America’s contribution, hinder our ability to grow our economy, compromise good, high-wage jobs for Americans and endanger strong and prosperous communities."

The report goes on to state numerous things the federal agencies are already doing, or will be doing.

For example, the report states that federal agencies will combat foreign based and foreign controlled web sites that infringe U.S. IPR. It states that "The use of foreign-based and foreign-controlled websites and web services to infringe American intellectual property rights is a growing problem that undermines our national security, particularly our national economic security. Despite the scope and increasing prevalence of such sites, enforcement is complicated because of the limits of the U.S. Government's jurisdiction and resources in foreign countries. To help better address these enforcement issues, Federal agencies, in coordination with the IPEC, will expeditiously assess current efforts to combat such sites and will develop a coordinated and comprehensive plan to address them that includes: (1) U.S. law enforcement agencies vigorously enforcing intellectual property laws; (2) U.S. diplomatic and economic agencies working with foreign governments and international organizations; and (3) the U.S. Government working with the private sector."

The report also states the federal agencies will work to enhance foreign law enforcement cooperation, to promote enforcement of U.S. IPR through trade policy tools (such as through trade agreements, and the Special 301 process), and strengthen intellectual property enforcement through international organizations, including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Customs Organization (WCO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (G-20), the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The report states that federal agencies are working to commit "our trading partners to protect American intellectual property through trade agreements such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and, when necessary, asserting our rights through the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement process."

It elaborates that the "USTR, in coordination with the IPEC and relevant Federal agencies, will continue the practice of using these tools to seek robust intellectual property enforcement, including protection of patents, copyrights, trade secrets and trademarks including geographical indications, as well as strong civil, criminal and border measures. Furthermore, USTR will be vigilant in enforcing U.S.trade rights under its trade agreements."

The report adds this qualification. "These efforts will be conducted in a manner consistent with the balance found in U.S. law and the legal traditions of U.S. trading partners."

The OUSTR has been accused by some groups of seeking to negotiate trade agreements that would impose obligations to enact statutes that provide greater IP rights or enforcement than is currently provided by U.S. statute and case law.

Joe Biden. Biden gave a long speech at the White House event in which he stated that "piracy is theft, clean and simple. It's is nothing but theft. It's smash and grab."

He added that "we had to come up with a government wide plan". He then reviewed the activities of various government agencies. He said that with this report "we have a clear game plan" that includes 33 specific items.

"We are going after people. We are going after the web sites", said the VP.

Joe BidenBiden (at left) focused on online activities. "Counterfeit drugs are a scourge, and our consumers aren't safe; they don't know what they are buying online many times. I applaud Google, Yahoo and Bing for the steps that they have taken in recent weeks to stop selling advertising to illegal internet pharmacies. But, but, we need to go further. It's time for others to step up too. It's time to stop supporting ads for drugs sold illegally over the internet, and for a simple reason, for the public health of American, of our population. And so look, the internet delivery companies, and movies, television, recording industries all tell me that we need to have a strong and fair effort in supporting [suppressing?] illegal downloads online. There are discussions going on right now between the content community and internet service providers. Everyone needs to be working together, and pulling their weight to fight the harm that is done to our economy and our people by this intellectual property theft. We hope that we can find an effective and practical way to reduce piracy online. But, it takes cooperation between the content community as well as the internet services providers. Not easy, but absolutely necessary." (TLJ transcribed from the White House news office's video. Biden uttered the word "supporting", but he likely meant to say "suppressing" or "supporting reduction of".)

Federal Officials. AG Holder stated in a release that the Department of Justice (DOJ) "worked closely with Administration officials to develop key aspects of this strategic plan to better protect our nation’s ability to remain at the forefront of technological advancement, business development and job creation ... The Department, along with its federal, state and local partners, is confronting this threat with a strong and coordinated response at home and abroad to ensure American entrepreneurs and businesses continue to develop, innovate and create."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a component of the DOJ. The DOJ's Criminal Division's Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) prosecutes some criminal violations of intellectual property laws.

Gordon Snow, Assistant Director of the FBI's Cyber Division, stated in the same release that "The integrity of health and safety products and trade secrets must be protected. The FBI is committed to pursuing those groups and individuals who steal, manufacture, distribute or otherwise profit from intellectual property theft".

The DHS's Napolitano stated in a release that "The products of American ingenuity -- from life-saving medicines and vaccines to state of the art technologies -- fuel our nation’s progress and economy ... DHS is committed to disrupting and dismantling the criminal organizations that promote counterfeiting and piracy that threaten the livelihoods of American businesses and workers."

The just released IPEC report states that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) "aims to ensure the facilitation of legitimate trade, while enforcing U.S. trade and intellectual property rights laws, as well as investigating intellectual property rights violations, specifically trademark, counterfeiting and copyright piracy."

The DHS includes the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The IPEC report states that "CBP is critical to enforcement of intellectual property rights. CBP acts under its own authorities to seize and forfeit goods that infringe on trademarks, trade names and copyrights; conduct audits; and impose and collect fines and penalties against intellectual property infringement. CBP also enforces exclusion and seizure and forfeiture orders issued by the ITC for imports that are determined to be intellectual property rights infringing."

See also, OUSTR release.

Senate Hearing. On Wednesday, June 23, at 10:00 AM, the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) will hold a hearing titled "Oversight of the Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator".

The witnesses will be Espinel, Barry Meyer (Ch/CEO at Warner Bros. Entertainment), Paul Almeida (AFL-CIO), David Hirschmann (U.S. Chamber of Commerce), and Caroline Bienstock (Carlin America).

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the applauded the IPEC report. He stated in a release that "The plan highlights the importance of effective and efficient enforcement of American intellectual property rights, which in turn protects American jobs and promotes economic growth. I look forward to discussing the plan with Ms. Espinel at the Judiciary Committee's oversight hearing tomorrow."