Movement Starts For Intellectual Property

Legislation to bolster intellectual property enforcement resources and tools for the Homeland Security Department through its Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies could move through the Senate Finance Committee before Thanksgiving, aides said Monday.

The measure, which Finance Chairman Max Baucus and ranking member Charles Grassley introduced in August, will be the focus of a hearing today.

After extensive negotiations with industry stakeholders, the bill has the backing of groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 650-member Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy. Coalition Chairman Rick Cotton, who serves as general counsel for NBC-Universal, will testify in support of the IP provisions, which are part of a broader CBP reauthorization effort. The bill would establish an IP coordination center within ICE to prevent importation or exportation of pirated and counterfeit goods.

The measure strengthens CBP’s targeting efforts to detect goods that violate IP rights and requires CBP to dedicate port personnel with primary responsibility for enforcing those rights. The bill requires a strategic plan to decide where best to position those agents and would assign at least one full-time IP specialist at each of the top 10 ports.

The Chamber’s IP coalition believes port selection should not be based solely on the volume of seizures, because traffickers will quickly switch shipping schedules. Instead, dedicated IP personnel should be present at all high-volume ports. Cotton’s group wants at least three full-time CBP employees assigned to ICE’s IP coordinating center and a stronger emphasis by CBP on employee training. The agency reportedly cancelled its IP training this year.

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