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Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the International Intellectual Property Summit


Hong Kong SAR China

Thank you, Superintendent O’Grady. I appreciate your warm welcome, and I am grateful for the support – and the inspiring example – that you and your colleagues in the An Garda Siochana are providing to the international law enforcement community.

I would also like to thank INTERPOL, Hong Kong Customs, and Underwriters Laboratories for hosting this important conference – and for bringing together so many leaders, experts, and partners from law enforcement agencies across the world.

During my service as the Attorney General of the United States, I have had the privilege of working with many of you on a broad range of issues. I have seen, firsthand, the power of our joint efforts. And I am convinced that the work of our nations’ law enforcement agencies – to combat terrorism, to dismantle drug cartels and human trafficking rings, to stop child pornographers and others who would prey on our most vulnerable citizens – is more effective because of our collaboration. To address new and emerging threats – and to protect the security, and defend the liberties, of the people we serve – this cooperation must continue.

It is fitting that we are gathered here in Hong Kong – a center of global innovation – to chart our course forward. Not only is Hong Kong one of the world’s most vibrant and modern cities, it is headquarters for so many leading international organizations and corporations. It is a hub for international politics, law, education, and commerce. And, this week, I hope it is the meeting ground for unprecedented international cooperation.

This conference is an important opportunity – a chance to focus the attention, and to harness the talents and resources, of the international law enforcement community in protecting intellectual property rights, safeguarding innovation, ensuring the health and safety of our citizens, and combating the international networks of organized criminals now seeking to profit from IP crimes.

Together, we are signaling that a new era of cooperation, engagement, and vigilance has begun. And we are sending an unequivocal message to criminals profiting from the ingenuity of others or endangering the safety of our citizens by selling defective or dangerous counterfeit goods. We will find you. We will stop you. And you will be punished.

Protecting intellectual property is a top priority for the United States – for President Obama, for me, and for America’s law enforcement community. Today, I am eager to share some of ways we are working to accomplish this goal and to overcome the challenges we all face.

In the United States, and here in Asia, intellectual property accounts for a significant and growing segment of commercial trade. But the same technologies that have spurred rapid growth in the legitimate economy have also allowed criminals to misappropriate the creativity of our innovators and entrepreneurs – and to operate global enterprises that survive by executing IP schemes. In fact, for every technological and commercial quantum leap we have made, criminals – and often entire international criminal syndicates – have kept pace. They have developed sophisticated methods for committing every imaginable type of intellectual property offense. They aren’t just selling counterfeit clothing or electronics. They’re selling defective and dangerous imitations of critical components, like brake pads, or everyday consumer goods, like toothpaste. They’re conducting corporate espionage. They’re pirating music, movies, games, software, and other copyrighted works – both on our cities’ streets and online. And the consequences are devastating. The global software industry is a prime example. According to recent industry reports, it is now estimated that, worldwide, more than 40 percent of all software installed on personal computers is obtained illegally – with forgone revenues to the software industry topping $50 billion. These are funds that could have been invested in new jobs and next-generation technologies. And software piracy affects more than just the software industry – since, for every $1 of PC software sold, it’s estimated that more than $3 of revenues are lost to local IT support and distribution services. Other IP and support industries are seeing the same ripple effect of losses – and current trends are alarming. Perhaps most concerning of all, however, is the widespread growth we’ve seen in the international sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, which can put the stability of corporations – and, more importantly, the health of consumers – at serious risk.

For too long, these illegal activities have been perceived as "business as usual." But not anymore. As each of you knows, stealing innovative ideas or passing off counterfeits can have devastating consequences for individuals, families, and communities. These crimes threaten economic opportunities and financial stability. They suppress the ingenuity of our people and businesses. They destroy jobs. And they can jeopardize the health and safety of the men and women we are sworn to protect. Intellectual property crimes are not victimless. And we must make certain that they are no longer perceived as risk-free.

As global criminal networks increasingly fund their illicit activities through intellectual property crimes, our challenge is not simply to keep up. Our strategies must become more sophisticated than those employed by the criminals we pursue. Our collaboration across borders must become more seamless. And our determination must not waver.

But the simple truth is that our chain of necessary and desired enforcement is only as strong as its weakest link. Let me be blunt: Not every country, not every organization has done enough. It is time to be clear, and honest, about where we can – and where we must – improve. If we are going to turn the page on the problem of international intellectual property crime, we must fully assess current efforts and commit to making meaningful, measurable enhancements.

Like many of your own governments, the Obama Administration recognizes that our nation’s economic prosperity is increasingly tied to industries – like software or life sciences – that rely on strong IP enforcement. That is why we have created a new framework, and called for an increased level of activity, to better protect intellectual property rights.

As many of you know, last year, President Obama created a new leadership role in the White House – Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator – and appointed Victoria Espinel to fill this position. I am pleased that Victoria is here with us today. As IP Enforcement Coordinator, her first order of business was to develop a comprehensive strategic plan to guide our government’s efforts to protect intellectual property, including copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. The strategic plan was released by the White House this summer. Already, it is strengthening and streamlining our efforts to detect and prosecute IP crimes. This work is just one example of the administration’s renewed focus on IP protection.

Last December, Vice President Biden convened the administration’s first intellectual property summit, which brought together cabinet officials and industry leaders to discuss intellectual property rights and policies – and to identify ways to improve our enforcement efforts. During that summit, I had the chance to discuss the Justice Department’s intellectual property enforcement strategy and the critical work being done by some of our most talented lawyers and investigators.

A key part of this strategy is led by Justice Department prosecutors – many of whom are focused exclusively on computer and intellectual property crimes. I am committed to making sure that these prosecutors have the resources and the specialized training necessary to prevent, identify, and stop IP violations – and to spot emerging crime trends more quickly.

Of course, the outstanding work of our prosecutors isn’t done, and couldn’t be accomplished, in isolation. It is supported by the skills and dedication of the investigative agents who develop the cases we bring in court. At every level of the Justice Department, we are committed to improving partnerships with our federal law enforcement colleagues – and with leaders across the international law enforcement community. In particular, I would like to note the great work being done through the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, which is led by our colleagues in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The IPR Center brings together investigators and analysts from a number of federal agencies to coordinate our efforts to investigate counterfeiting, online piracy, and other IP violations.

To build on the contributions and achievements of our prosecutors and investigators, in February of this year, I reestablished the Justice Department’s Task Force on Intellectual Property. Chaired by the Deputy Attorney General, the Task Force includes senior leaders from across the Department. And, as many of you know, it’s focused on facilitating coordination among international law enforcement partners. A cornerstone of this effort is the Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordinator program.

With the help of our colleagues in the Department of State, the Justice Department has deployed two federal prosecutors – based in Bangkok, Thailand, and in Sofia, Bulgaria – to manage our IP protection efforts in Southeast Asia and in Eastern Europe. They work closely with our international counterparts to share information and evidence regarding joint investigations and to enhance IP enforcement training programs. Here in Asia, one of our law enforcement coordinators is actively engaged in efforts to strengthen the work of the IP Criminal Enforcement Network.

But this work is not just for our coordinators alone. Following this conference, I will travel to Beijing, where I look forward to meeting with my counterparts and other officials to discuss how we can build on our nations’ bilateral enforcement efforts through the Intellectual Property Working Group of the U.S.-China Joint Liaison Group for Law Enforcement Cooperation. Together, I hope we can work to identify the most pressing, and perilous, gaps in our enforcement mechanisms – and begin taking the steps required to close these gaps, strengthen IP protections, and fulfill the most critical obligations of public service: ensuring opportunity, fostering prosperity, and protecting the safety and health of our people.

In this work, I pledge my own best efforts. And, today, I ask for yours. I will continue to seek out and seize opportunities to foster stronger relationships, and greater cooperation, among international law enforcement agencies. But I also know that, without your help – and until every nation makes a commitment, and takes action, to ensure aggressive IP enforcement – we will not solve the challenges that now bring us together.

Strong partnerships provide our best chance for success. In fact, we’ve seen, clearly, how international collaboration can lead to effective prosecutions. As Attorney General, I am particularly proud of the work we’re doing in the United States to fight intellectual property crime in the courtroom. But I also that recognize that our outstanding record of criminal prosecutions could not have been achieved without the help of our partners around the world.

Recently, the Justice Department has made significant and encouraging progress in prosecuting individuals, and international criminal organizations, that traffic in counterfeit pharmaceuticals. For example, just two months ago, we successfully prosecuted a defendant who was selling fake cancer medications to patients in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The drugs – which he marketed as a rare, experimental treatment – were manufactured in Canada, but advertised and sold globally over the Internet. With assistance from Canadian and German authorities, this individual was apprehended and extradited to the United States, where he was finally brought to justice.

And earlier this year, in Richmond, Virginia, the Justice Department won convictions in one of the largest intellectual property cases in U.S. history, involving more than $100 million in counterfeit luxury goods. The defendants were part of an international group of criminals that owned and operated 13 companies and 8 manufacturing plants. During the investigation, Hong Kong authorities provided critical help in obtaining evidence for trial, and we remain extremely grateful for that assistance.

These are just two of many examples, but each illustrates the vital importance of international cooperation in the fight against IP crime. Without the help of our international partners, we could not have brought these crimes to light – or brought the criminals involved to justice.

The Justice Department is also exploring ways to strengthen its IP enforcement efforts by incorporating the legal tools we use routinely to combat money laundering, fraud, and other types of economic crime. And we have included intellectual property crime as a focus area of the Justice Department’s International Organized Crime Strategy.

Although the progress we have made in the United States, and around the world, is encouraging – we cannot yet be satisfied. And we must not become complacent.

Each of us – and every member of the international law enforcement community – has pledged to protect the rights and security of the citizens we serve. But none of us can fulfill that promise alone. In this age of instantaneous global communication, when criminal activity knows no bounds, our enforcement work must extend beyond our own borders. Working together is no longer just the best way forward. Now, it is the only way forward.

On behalf of the United States, I am grateful for your partnership, your leadership, and your cooperation in protecting the safety of our citizens, the strength of our markets, and the intellectual property rights of our nations’ innovators and entrepreneurs.

This is critical, and urgent, work. And we must never let our differences, and occasional disagreements, blind us to the central truth that the security, basic freedoms, and best interests of our citizens are, and will continue to be, intimately connected.

Our task is great – but our success is possible. Only if we work in common cause, only if we put the full measure of national commitment in our efforts, and only if we honor the values we share, can we – and will we – create a world in which intellectual property crime is not the domain of the future, but a marker of the past.

Thank you.

Updated November 6, 2014