Justice Department Focuses on Efforts to Protect Intellectual Property Rights

Attorney General urges congress to enact important new legislation. 

by / May 15, 2007

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales highlighted the Justice Department's ongoing efforts to protect intellectual property rights Monday, and announced a comprehensive legislative proposal entitled the "Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007," before members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy.

In addition to the proposed legislation, the department's ongoing commitment to combating intellectual property includes measures for implementing valuable resources, and aggressively prosecuting counterfeiters, each elements of the government-wide Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP) Initiative.

In June 2006, the Department's Task Force on Intellectual Property issued a Progress Report outlining its progress in implementing 31 recommendations to improve IP protection. The task force's recommendations, and additional department efforts include the following:

  • An improved focus on international outreach and capacity-building efforts. In 2006 alone, prosecutors in the Criminal Division trained over 3,000 prosecutors, investigators, and judges from 107 countries; established an IP Law Enforcement Coordinator for Asia in Bangkok, Thailand; and secured funding to establish a second IPLEC position for Eastern Europe in Sofia, Bulgaria.
  • Expansion of the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) network of federal prosecutors dedicated to the prosecution of high-tech and IP crime. The total number of CHIP prosecutors has increased to 230 (with at least one in each U.S. Attorney's Office), and the number of specialized CHIP Units has nearly doubled in the past two years to 25 cities nationwide.
  • Focused outreach to the private sector. The Department has hosted a series of training conferences for IP rights holders that educate them on, among other things, the investigation and prosecution of federal IP cases, the parameters for permissible cooperation and assistance in federal investigations by private rights holders, and procedures and tips for how best to report criminal violations of the copyright, trademark, and trade secret laws. Additional conferences are planned for 2007.

Today the Department submitted to Congress the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007 that would enhance the Department's ability to prosecute crimes and protect the intellectual property rights of citizens and industries. Among its many provisions, the Act includes measures that would:

  • Increase the maximum penalty for counterfeiting offenses from 10 years to 20 years imprisonment where the defendant knowingly or recklessly causes or attempts to cause serious bodily injury, and increase the maximum penalty to life imprisonment where the defendant knowingly or recklessly causes or attempts to cause death;
  • Provide stronger penalties for repeat-offenders of the copyright laws;
  • Implement broad forfeiture reforms to ensure the ability to forfeit property derived from or used in the commission of criminal intellectual property offenses;
  • Strengthen restitution provisions for certain intellectual property crimes (e.g., criminal copyright and DMCA offenses);
  • Ensure that the exportation and transhipment of copyright-infringing goods is a crime, just as the exportation of counterfeit goods is now criminal.