U.S. Unveils Broad Crackdown on Piracy, Counterfeit Goods

The Obama administration unveiled a government-wide strategy Tuesday to crack down on piracy and counterfeit goods, adding more than 50 FBI agents this year to tackle intellectual property abuses.

With the ubiquity of the Internet, online piracy and the sale of counterfeit goods on the Web are growing rapidly across a range of industries, including entertainment, software and pharmaceutical markets.

Vice President Joe Biden, who announced the new program, said that the problem costs Americans jobs and that counterfeit goods threaten lives.

“Whether we’re talking about fake drugs that hurt … or knock-off car tires that fall apart at 65 miles per hour causing injury and death, counterfeits kill,” Biden said at a White House meeting that included Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

The Intellectual Property Enforcement agency, an arm of the Office of Management and Budget, will review current efforts to curb intellectual property infringement of U.S. goods abroad, especially in China, said Victoria A. Espinel, the unit’s coordinator.

Last year, 79% of fake goods seized by authorities came from China, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report.

The enforcement strategy outlined in a 61-page report released Tuesday contains more than 30 recommendations, including the establishment of an interagency committee dedicated to curbing fake drugs and medical products.

The report also calls for agencies to encourage foreign law enforcement to go after rogue websites and to “increase the number of criminal enforcement actions” against intellectual property violators.

“There’s not an industry that hasn’t been affected,” said Mark Esper, executive vice president of the Global Intellectual Property Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Esper lauded the enforcement strategy and warned that the “next victim out there is probably going to be the e-books and the publishing industry.”

The unveiling of the enforcement strategy was cheered by numerous trade groups, including the Motion Picture Assn. of America and the Recording Industry Assn. of America. The U.S. entertainment industry has been battered by the sale of pirated movies and illegal downloading of music.

“This plan is an important step forward in combating intellectual property theft and protecting the millions of jobs and businesses that rely so heavily on copyrights, patents and trademarks and help drive the American economy,” said Bob Pisano, the MPAA’s president.

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