Pulling the Weight on IP Enforcement

Do consumers really think about the fact that the same professionals who are responsible for keeping our children safe from child predators, drug dealers, and terrorists are also responsible  for safeguarding our markets and e-markets from criminal counterfeiters and digital thieves?

As we skim the headlines over the past few weeks, it’s evident that IP theft is not a victimless crime. It’s an epidemic that could have real, dangerous consequences. That is precisely why the work of Department of Homeland Security’s Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is so very important to business and consumers alike.

This past Monday, following an extensive two-year investigation, ICE and HSI arrested two Detroit counterfeiters who are charged with knowingly trafficking counterfeit air bags, destined for our vehicles. These arrests follow an unprecedented government warning of the imperative threat to public safety that these unassuming dangerous fakes could cause.

But law enforcement’s work doesn’t stop at our vehicles. ICE took an instrumental role in early October’s massive worldwide operation to shutter criminals selling fake medicines online. The evidence shows that their work is successful. Since the beginning of Operation in Our Sites just two years ago, ICE has managed to stop criminals from operating over 1,500 illicit digital storefronts, many of which were pushing potentially harmful fakes.

Lead-laden fake medicines, substandard baby carriers, and contaminated contact lenses, ICE has seen it all. Products designed to save or improve our lives are being copied on the cheap and are instead needlessly harming lives. In the case of the counterfeit air bags, even tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that “in at least one case, a counterfeit bag fired shards of metal shrapnel on impact.”

Enforcement agencies also tackle the fakes that are true job killers. Just yesterday, a California man was sentenced to 3 years for trafficking pirated computer software. In this scheme, one single man’s counterfeiting operation subsequently tarnished the reputations of reputable online sellers, gained access to the customer payments and addresses, all while undermining the IP of a legitimate, respected business. ICE and HSI assert that these kind of illicit counterfeiting and pirating operations “amount to economic sabotage.”

While these agencies are charged with removing these illicit fakes out of our economy, they’re also charged with preventing them from getting here in the first place. That’s why their work in cutting off fakes straight from the source- the people behind these sophisticated criminal rings- is so effective. Time and time again we see that few people can be responsible for trafficking and selling thousands or millions of fake goods. An ounce of enforcement is worth a pound of safety.

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