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Protecting America's Intellectual Property Assets

April 26, 2011
The following post appears courtesy of Deputy Attorney General James Cole in recognition of the 11th Annual World Intellectual Property Day. It originally appeared online at The National Law Journal. Intellectual property is one of America's greatest assets and its protection is central to our economic prosperity and security as well the public's health and safety. Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the creation of the Task Force on Intellectual Property. The Task Force, chaired by Deputy Attorney General Cole, strengthens efforts to combat intellectual property crimes through close coordination with state and local law enforcement partners as well as our international counterparts. Learn more about the work of the IP Task Force, here. This country has a deep and rich history of developing innovative products and groundbreaking inventions that have helped to shape our world. Intellectual property is one of America's greatest assets and protection of these assets is vital to our economy, our health, and our legacy. Today, as we recognize the 11th Annual World Intellectual Property Day, we celebrate the creativity and innovation of American music, literature, film, art and the inventive spirit that have set this country apart. The growth of new technologies, increased broadband access to the Internet and global manufacturing distribution channels provide increasing opportunities to market American products and creative content around the world. Yet, on this day we must also recognize that there are those who exploit these same technological advances to profit illegally from the hard work of American authors, artists and inventors through criminal copyright infringement, trademark counterfeiting, trade secret theft, economic espionage, and other intellectual property (IP) offenses. Unfortunately, criminals rely upon American consumers to buy their counterfeit goods. According to recent research from the National Crime Prevention Council, most Americans do not fully understand the scope or consequences of intellectual property crime and are susceptible to being swayed by the lure of a bargain, especially in these tough economic times. As chair of the Department's Task Force on Intellectual Property that Attorney General Eric Holder established last year, I know we must continue to work to change the perception that IP crime is risk-free and victimless through aggressive criminal enforcement of laws designed to protect the American public and ensure the quality of products reaching consumers. Intellectual property crime contributes to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, costs our economy billions of dollars annually and exposes Americans to potentially dangerous products, affecting public health and safety and national security. Sadly, the creation and sale of counterfeit and pirated goods can be found in many aspects of our daily lives--from batteries and car brake pads to software, to sophisticated computer equipment used to help our armed forces complete their missions overseas. The task force has sought to strengthen IP protections through an increased focus on domestic and international enforcement and better coordination with our state and local law enforcement partners. We've made significant strides to obtain convictions of online distributors of counterfeit pharmaceuticals; large-scale producers and smugglers of counterfeit goods ranging from luxury items to military-grade computer system hardware; distributors of pirated digital movies and music; and those who have misappropriated highly-valued trade secret information from American corporations. In 2011, defendants have been convicted and sent to prison for stealing automobile design specifications, software used in high-volume securities transactions and the technology to create high-tech glass used for modern digital devices. The Department has also successfully pursued copyright pirates who profit from the online sale of "cracked" software or music, or who release digital copies of movies for unlimited downloading before the first showing in the theater. In addition to targeting the criminals, we've provided more than $4 million to state, local and tribal law enforcement partners to help improve their capacity to address IP crime. These resources have resulted in the seizure of millions of dollars in dangerous and illegal counterfeit products. The risk to the public of counterfeits is clear--within the past year, a married couple in Arizona were sentenced for distributing counterfeit prescription drugs by filling customers' orders with unapproved and misbranded imitation drugs from India, generating more than $2.5 million in Internet sales. In a similar counterfeit drug scheme, a Canadian citizen was sentenced in August 2010 for selling fake cancer drugs and pirated business software online. This defendant sold what he claimed was the experimental cancer drug sodium dichloroacetate to 65 victims in the North America and Europe. Laboratory testing revealed that the substance sold contained no active ingredient. We are also focusing more on criminal counterfeiters abroad. Last October, the attorney general traveled to China, where he met with senior law enforcement officials to stress the importance of IP enforcement and bilateral cooperation between the United States and China. He also delivered the keynote address at the Fourth Annual International Law Enforcement IP Crime Conference in Hong Kong to 500 law enforcement agents, prosecutors and industry representatives from approximately 40 countries. This year we are partnering with the State Department, to provide training to officials from more than 20 countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, South and Central America, Africa and the Middle East. Though we have accomplished a great deal, we recognize that we cannot rest on what has been done. The attorney general and I are committed to continuing to do more and with your help, we will hold accountable these criminals, protect the American public and safeguard one of America's greatest assets

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Updated April 7, 2017