New Report Highlights IP Enforcement Efforts in 2012

By  Trinh Nguyen

While counterfeiters and digital pirates  may be pedaling shoddy products, the criminal networks behind IP infringement are incredibly sophisticated. The “businesses’ they are conducting and the products they are pushing are wrong, illegal and potentially dangerous for economies and consumers alike. These shadow markets and stealth operations make it difficult for  businesses and enforcement entities to locate and remove these disruptive products in what can seem like needles in a haystack.

Imagine finding 22,848 of these needles in a global haystack of billions. That’s exactly what U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did in fiscal year 2012. These agencies tracked down thousands upon thousands of shipments and hundreds of websites that were engaging in intellectual property crimes that were stealing from businesses and defrauding consumers.

$1.26 billion in goods ranging from phony wallets to pretend pharmaceuticals made the list of offending products, some of which have real health and safety implications. While shipping containers used to be  the predominant  means for transporting counterfeits, CBP and ICE recognize that these crimes can now be counted by clicks (of the computer mouse, that is). Lev Kubiak, director of the National Intellectual Property Rights Center said in a release:

“As online commerce continues to expand, we are seeing more international criminal organizations exploiting cyberspace to further their criminal enterprises. Internet websites are increasingly the front end or entry point for consumers, businesses and criminal organizations to the international supply chain.

“Attacking criminal activity at every point along the international supply chain, to include websites, manufacturers, shippers and shipping routes, border entry points, distribution networks and payment methods, is critical to CBP and HSI’s enforcement efforts.”

Unsuspecting online consumers are being duped into purchasing potentially dangerous fakes by these international criminals. The consequences of counterfeiting and piracy go well beyond owning a bogus product. They jeopardize the jobs of those whose industries are being ripped off, they endanger public health, and they could even flout national security. Just recently, U.S. officials dismantled an international ring that sold $100 million in pirated software destined for defense equipment and compromised to facilitate espionage by a foreign entity.

To say that the work that CBP, ICE, the IPR Center and partners are doing to combat IP theft is important would be a vast understatement. Their enforcement efforts deserve praise for keeping America safe and they deserve effective and meaningful resources to carry out this utterly necessary work.

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