Berman Riffs On IP Rights, Patent Reform

National Journal

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman capped off Wednesday’s U.S. Chamber of Commerce intellectual property summit by touching on a range of issues — from patents to copyrights to trademarks. How does the former head of the now defunct Judiciary Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property Subcommittee keep abreast of the flurry of IP activity while heading up a panel with broad jurisdiction over international and diplomatic issues? “I can walk and chew gum at the same time,” he said.

Berman said he hoped that the Senate will act on a version of a foreign relations reauthorization bill that would include language to increase resources and training for enforcement of IP rights. A bill he introduced, which overwhelmingly passed the House in June, would require the Secretary of State to appoint 10 new IP attachés to serve in embassies or other diplomatic missions with priority placement given to countries with particularly egregious IP regimes.

On the ongoing debate over whether and how to overhaul the U.S. patent system, Berman said he was hopeful that legislation could move forward. He noted that the Senate is poised to pave the way in the 111th Congress. Berman also said President Obama’s nomination of the first White House IP enforcement coordinator last week should lead to “a more coherent and comprehensive federal policy.” Rigorous enforcement and a focus on digital piracy should be at the top of that office’s agenda, he said.

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