Help Wanted: The Next Generation of IP Champions

By Brian Noyes

Late last week, the White House announced that its chief intellectual property advocate, Victoria Espinel, will be stepping down in the coming weeks. As the first-ever IP Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), Espinel developed and implemented an ambitious agenda across the Federal government to help protect the intellectual property of America’s job creators.  She found ways to advance practical solutions to ensure consumers have safe access to the products and services developed by nation’s most innovative and creative industries.

This executive office, which was created just a year after the GIPC was formally established, has also served as the convening power for all government and enforcement agencies working on IP issues- and, boy, there are many! In fact, Espinel’s oncoming departure brought to mind just how many U.S. IP offices there are that are facing similar vacancies or changes in leadership:

  • U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Executive Office of the President (Victoria Espinel)- The IPEC is charged with coordinating the work of the federal agencies responsible for IP enforcement and developing a strategy to reduce IP theft and enhance enforcement.
  • Director for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security (John Morton)– ICE is the “principle investigative arm” of DHS and is largely responsible for taking down and prosecuting the worst-of-the-worst IP criminals. ICE also plays a principle role in leading and coordinating the National IPR Center, which consists of 21 key U.S. and international agencies involved in IP theft enforcement. Also of note, Morton received GIPC’s first ever IP Champions award for his leadership and dedication to IP rights in both the online and physical worlds.
  • Director for U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (David Kappos)– Currently, Teresa Staneck Rea lies at the helm of USPTO as acting director, following Kappos’ departure last year. Since 1871, USPTO has been the principle agency responsible for granting patents and trademarks to inventors and businesses as well as providing in-country IP exports (attaches) in foreign U.S. embassies.
  • Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, Department of State (Robert Hormats)– The Office for Economic Growth serves as one of the U.S.’s diplomatic arms for economic policy, which touches on IP rights advocacy overseas.
  • Assistant Commissioner for the Office of International Trade at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (Al Gina)– Another IP Champions awardee, Al Gina helped guide CBP’s IP enforcement activities which have been integral in removing dangerous fakes, like counterfeit airbags, from the marketplace.

In certainly all of these cases, the next class of IP leaders has big shoes to fill. America’s economic might is becoming even more reliant on knowledge-based, IP-intensive industries, providing immense opportunity. The inter-agency enforcement and promotion work done by these outstanding professionals are not only important, but necessary for our ability to grow safely and prosperously.

We are grateful for the dedication and tireless work of these officials to elevate IP rights, but there’s a lot of work ahead and we look forward to the next generation of IP champions.

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