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Over the last six months, the IP czar's office has taken “important steps” to improve enforcement of intellectual property rights, according to a report issued Feb. 7 by Victoria A. Espinel, the White House's IP enforcement coordinator. The report also committed to submit “in the near future” a series of legislative proposals directed at further improving enforcement of IP rights.
In particular the report noted:
• The hosting of meetings of representatives from federal agencies and private companies “to encourage voluntary efforts to combat illegal online pharmacies.”
• The Operation in Our Sites effort, which resulted in the seizure of dozens of domain names associated with websites used for infringing activities (80 PTCJ 343, 7/16/10; 81 PTCJ 139, 12/3/10).
• Two of the largest seizures of counterfeit goods--valued at $100 million--by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
• The conclusion of international negotiations to establish an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in order to enhance international enforcement of U.S. IP rights (81 PTCJ 72, 11/19/10).
The report--the “2010 U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Annual Report on Intellectual Property Enforcement”--comes on the heels of reports by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation summarizing their efforts to implement the goals of the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 (81 PTCJ 429, 2/4/11).
Included in the report was a summary of the goals of the IP czar's office, as well as reasons supporting enhancement of IP rights enforcement. These included:
• The importance of IP-related goods and services to America's export sector. The report noted that the president's State of the Union speech included references to the importance of innovation to the economy (81 PTCJ 369, 1/28/11).
• The danger to public health and safety posed by the dissemination of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, electronic goods, military goods, and other goods that if faulty could pose a risk to the public.
The report acknowledged an “extensive debate about the government's role in Internet policy … and the enforcement of intellectual property rights in the online context ….” Noting the advantages to consumers and business arising from the internet, the report, however, warned that “proliferation of infringing content will hamper consumer trust.” It also warned that an environment characterized by “lack of respect for the rule of law or widespread violations of intellectual property law will prevent the establishment of a safe and predictable environment for businesses and consumers alike.”
Education efforts promoting respect for IP rights as well as coordinated enforcement programs are necessary, the report said, “[b]ut the sheer volume of infringing content online calls for private sector involvement in order to effectively address the threat and to ensure that legitimate companies are not inadvertently creating safe havens for infringing activity.”
To this end, the IP czar's office will continue to encourage voluntary private action to combat infringement, as well as pursuing law enforcement actions, the report said.
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