White House Vows To Crack Down On Counterfeit Goods

Congress Daily
The Obama administration signaled a new get-tough approach to intellectual property enforcement Tuesday with the release of the nation’s first comprehensive plan for combating pirated goods.

Warning of risks not only to the economy but also national security, the document pledges a “robust federal response” to counterfeit goods that have infiltrated the supply chains of retailers, technology companies, the aerospace industry and even the military.

The plan was unveiled during an Old Executive Office Building event featuring U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, Vice President Biden, Attorney General Holder, Commerce Secretary Locke and other officials.

“Piracy hurts. It hurts our economy to the tune of billions — some argue tens of billions of dollars — in lost private sector profit and government revenue,” Biden said. “It hurts our health and safety.”

“I say to those that are suffering from infringement: Help is on the way,” Espinel pledged. “We understand the problems that you face and we will work to make things better.”

To firms that violate the rights of U.S. companies, her message was equally blunt: “We are committed to putting you out of business.”

Nations such as China that play an outsized role in manufacturing pirated goods would receive special attention, she warned.

Drawing on input from at least six federal agencies, the U.S. Copyright Office, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the public, the plan features 33 recommendations for action. These include creating a working group to review how federal and state agencies can avoid procuring knock-off goods and ensuring that the government has the tools to identify pirated products, which are increasingly difficult to distinguish from authentic items.

The 61-page plan says the government must set an example by attempting to bar the purchase and usage of “infringing products” and recommends better cooperation with trading partners and international groups to protect the rights of American companies.

It also says the Internet has facilitated the growth of counterfeit products by making sales and distribution easier. “Today, the Internet allows for a person who illegally ‘cam-cords’ a film at a movie theater in Moscow to distribute a bootleg copy across the globe with the push of a button,” the report says, citing one of several examples.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seized more than $260 million worth of counterfeit goods at ports of entry in FY09, with nearly 80 percent of the intercepted products from China, according to the Homeland Security Department. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that the global trade in counterfeit goods was at least $250 billion in 2007, and is rising steadily.

The release of the strategic plan was applauded by a diverse array of stakeholders, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Entertainment Software Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Motion Picture Association of America, Progress and Freedom Foundation, and Public Knowledge.

“The national strategy, the first of its kind, will defend America’s intellectual property by cracking down on the counterfeiting and piracy that are killing jobs, harming consumers, and stunting our economic recovery,” David Hirschmann, president and CEO of the Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the White House and the Congress to quickly implement and build upon the national strategy.”

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