Friday, June 25, 2010

New US IP Enforcement Plan May Have International Impact; Intellectual Property Watch, 6/23/10

Liza Porteus Viana, Intellectual Property Watch; New US IP Enforcement Plan May Have International Impact:

"The Obama administration’s release of its national intellectual property strategy yesterday was welcomed by many groups representing businesses and intellectual property holders who said it could serve as an example to other countries.

The strategy encompasses 33 enforcement strategy action items that fall within six categories of focus for the United States: (1) leading by example; (2) increasing transparency; (3) ensuring efficiency and coordination; (4) enforcing our rights internationally; (5) securing our supply chain; and (6) building a data-driven government.

“Combating counterfeiting and piracy requires a robust federal response,” says the introduction of the report, which was released by President Obama’s intellectual property enforcement coordinator (IPEC), Victoria Espinel, who was joined by US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Attorney General Eric Holder, Vice President Joe Biden, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “Our status as a global innovation leader is compromised by those countries who fail to enforce the rule of law or international agreements, or who adopt policies that disadvantage American industries.”

“I say to those who are suffering from infringement: ‘Help is on the way,’” Espinel said during a press conference releasing the report.

Watch a video of the press conference here.

Biden said a comprehensive approach thus far has been lacking in this country, further alluding to the fact that up until now, there has been no proper cracking down on piracy at the federal level.

“Piracy hurts. It hurts our economy,” as well as citizens’ health and safety, he added, taking a hardline position. “Whether we’re talking about fake drugs that hurt instead of help the patient or knockoff car tires that fall apart at 65 miles per hour that cause injury or death, counterfeits kill. Counterfeits kill. There’s a reason why they’re counterfeit – they don’t know how to do it in the first place. It also, to state the obvious, stifles creativity.”

He continued: “Piracy is theft – clean and simple. It’s smash and grab. … Intellectual property is no different.”

While acknowledging the need to control IP infringement, public interest groups, academics and some US trading partners have continually raised concern that overly strong or unbalanced protection measures can also stifle creativity and innovation as well by limiting access to ideas and knowledge...

Mark Esper, executive vice president of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, said this strategy may cause others to ponder similar plans. The instalment of Espinel as the IPEC may also hammer home the idea that the United States is taking IP enforcement seriously, he added. As of January 2007, 23 countries and/or regions had intellectual property strategies included in WIPO’s IP and New Technologies Database.

“Those two go hand in glove,” Esper told Intellectual Property Watch. Other countries may conclude that “they, too, will need somebody at the top of their government focused solely on IP and creativity.” He said the European Union is pondering the idea of such an official.

The Chamber commended the administration, specifically, for acknowledging the increasingly sophisticated problem of internet piracy. Biden also called on the private sector to do more to combat this type of theft.

“I am encouraged to see they have taken on the issue area growing the most quickly, the one that will be the most difficult to get under control,” Esper added.

Biden also specifically applauded search engines like Yahoo, Google and Bing, which in recent weeks took steps to stop selling advertising to illegal internet pharmacies.

Applause and comments also came from other groups such as the Motion Picture Association of America, Copyright Alliance, Progress & Freedom Foundation, National Association of Manufacturers and American Apparel & Footwear Association, as well as lawmakers such as Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who was the lead author of the 2008 legislation creating Espinel’s post. Leahy said he will discuss the plan with Espinel at the Judiciary Committee’s IPEC oversight hearing today."

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