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President Donald Trump’s candidate to be the White House’s chief voice on intellectual property rights enforcement told a Senate panel May 24 that the U.S. must tackle the problem of China’s counterfeiting and IP theft.
“We have to make efficient use of our trade rules,” Vishal J. Amin, Trump’s nominee to fill the position of White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, testified at his Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing. “We need to engage with China’s government.”
Pressed on whether China was hurting the U.S. economy as one of the world’s top five IP offenders, Amin told the committee that China is a “significant issue.”
Amin, who currently serves as senior counsel for the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.), must be confirmed by the Senate before taking over as IPEC, a post sometimes referred to as “IP Czar.” The position, created by the Senate in 2008, carries with it the responsibility for coordinating IP enforcement issues across federal agencies.
During the Obama administration, the post was filled by Victoria Espinel and, later, Daniel Marti, who had no staff but were the public face of the administration’s position on overseas infringement of U.S. companies’ intellectual property. The IPEC position has been vacant since Marti resigned with the rest of Obama’s White House team.
If confirmed, Amin said he would build on the work done by his predecessors on enforcement against online piracy and counterfeit goods.“There is a lot of work to be done in terms of express shipping and small package shipments that are coming over, particularly from markets like China,” Amin said. “It will be important to work with the Department of Homeland Security and work with customs authorities globally.”
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) questioned Amin about foreign countries that let American companies do business in their jurisdictions on the condition that they hand over their technologies. “Why don’t we reciprocate?” he asked.
Amin agreed that, from a trade enforcement perspective, certain countries are “disadvantaging” U.S. industries and companies through forced technology transfers. He deferred to the Trump administration on whether the U.S. should retaliate.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del) asked Amin what steps he would take to restore the U.S. patent system’s status as the “global gold standard.” Coons cited the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Global IP Index that showed that the U.S. patent system, previously ranked first, had dropped to 10th place.
“A well-functioning patent system is incredibly important,” Amin responded. If confirmed, he said he would work closely with the White House, the Department of Commerce and the Patent and Trademark Office on domestic and international patent issues.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked how the U.S. could reduce abusive patent litigation. He cited the Supreme Court’s May 22 decision in TC Heartland V. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC that said patent suits should be filed in the state where the defendant is incorporated, undercutting patent owners’ ability to channel cases to favorable courts.
“We need to make sure we get high-quality patents and that the processes around them operate efficiently,” Amin said. “We will have to see how the system operates post TC Heartland, in terms of waiting for the dust to settle.”
Amin’s nomination has received support from trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Broadcasters and the Internet Association, all of whom have called for his confirmation.
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