Good morning. I'm pleased to be here to speak with you again about the importance of intellectual property issues and what we're doing about them at the Department of Justice.
Now, I don't have to tell anyone in this audience how important IP protection is to our economy and to preserving America's competitive position in the global marketplace. And I hope it is also clear by now that we at the Justice Department are committed to enforcing the law in this area and to pushing for even stronger legislation to protect American businesses and their intellectual property.
The President's Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy Initiative is a comprehensive and coordinated plan for federal agencies to work together to crack down on the growing trade in counterfeit and pirated goods. The Department's Intellectual Property Task Force is the cornerstone of our IP efforts. Its work is important to me, and for that reason I have asked my new chief of staff, Kevin O'Connor to serve as its chair.
The Task Force’s efforts to improve criminal IP enforcement have led to substantial increases in federal investigations and prosecutions of IP violations. We are dedicating more resources than ever before to the protection of U.S. intellectual property rights, with a special emphasis on prosecuting health and safety cases.
While crimes like IP theft may appear harmless to some, we know that the reality is much different. Imagine a heart patient undergoing emergency surgery at a hospital that unknowingly purchased substandard counterfeit surgical equipment or medications.
These crimes, as we all know, also have a direct impact on our economy, costing victims millions of dollars and, if left unchecked, diminishing entrepreneurship.
And so last year, the Department committed to increasing the number of IP prosecutions and improving our international cooperation and outreach efforts. With the good work and dedicated efforts of U.S. Attorney's Offices and law enforcement across the country, including our partners in the Department of Homeland Security, we accomplished those goals.
For example, in 2006, we convicted 57 percent more defendants for criminal copyright and trademark offenses than in 2005. Of those convictions, the number of defendants receiving prison terms of more than two years increased even more sharply – up 130 percent.
Increased enforcement, across the government, and stiffer sentences send an important message to these counterfeiters and pirates that we take their crimes seriously, and we will punish their actions.
These are complicated cases, and we need a strong nationwide network to bring good cases and to win them. We now have 230 federal prosecutors around the country who have been specially trained to handle IP investigations.
More than ever before, the Department and our partners at all levels of government are reaching out to industry, especially groups like the Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy -- because we know that we cannot do it alone.
Earlier this morning Secretary Gutierrez and I sat down with the Chamber's anti-counterfeiting and piracy leadership council for an informal discussion. Such meetings are important in keeping us informed about the concerns of intellectual property owners.
For example, in March, I sat down with a cross-section of top-level anti-piracy executives to discuss intellectual property rights enforcement. One of the major concerns highlighted was the importance of international cooperation between governments. Strong enforcement here in the United States is important, but it is not enough.
People around the world enjoy the fruits of the hard work of our creative communities, and modern technology gives IP owners unprecedented opportunities to distribute their works to a worldwide audience. But the same technology that allows for legitimate widespread distribution to consumers has also made it relatively easy and inexpensive to peddle pirated and counterfeit products without regard to international borders.
And criminal organizations benefiting from IP theft have become more sophisticated and more organized. They hide in the economic shadows to exploit any weaknesses in our enforcement efforts, and then use the proceeds of their theft to finance other criminal enterprises.
In order to further our international work, last year the Department placed the first-ever IP Law Enforcement Coordinator in Bangkok, Thailand. This summer, we will be establishing a second coordinator in Eastern Europe in Sophia, Bulgaria.
As part of our efforts to build international cooperation in law enforcement, earlier this year I also traveled to Brazil, where I met with government officials to talk about what we can do together to combat IP crime. We've had some important joint operations with Brazil, and our frank discussions are an important part of setting the stage for even more cooperation down the road. And next week I will be discussing ways to improve IP enforcement with my G8 colleagues in Munich.
A few weeks ago we had a milestone case of international cooperation on IP crime when Hew Raymond Griffiths of Australia pled guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. Griffiths was the leader of one of the oldest and most renowned Internet piracy groups, called DrinkOrDie, and he was the first person ever to be extradited to the United States for online software piracy.
This criminal ring was estimated to have caused the illegal reproduction and distribution of more than $50 million worth of pirated software, movies, games and music. Griffiths boasted that he was beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement.
It took several years, and a lot of hard work by dedicated professionals, but we showed that just as the pirates and counterfeiters can operate beyond borders, so can we.
Finally, in order for us to protect the intellectual property that is so important to our Nation, and to meet the global challenges of IP crime, our criminal laws must be kept updated.
Therefore, today I am transmitting to Congress the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007. This legislation would provide stronger penalties for repeat offenders and increase the maximum penalty for counterfeiting offenses if the defendant knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury or death.
And the bill would hit the criminals in their wallets by strengthening restitution provisions, and making sure they forfeit all of their illicit profits as well as any property used to commit their crimes.
IP theft is not a technicality, and its victims are not just faceless corporations — it is stealing, and it affects us all. Those who seek to undermine this cornerstone of U.S. economic competitiveness believe that they are making easy money; that they are beyond the law. It is our responsibility and commitment to show them that they are wrong.