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Attorney General Eric Holder Speaksat the Rio De Janeiro Prosecutor General’s Office


Rio de Janeiro-RJ

Thank you very much for your warm welcome, and good morning to my distinguished fellow panelists and to all members of the audience. Thank you, Ambassador Shannon, for that kind introduction, and thank you, Prosecutor General Lopes, for graciously hosting today’s event.

I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to meet with my Brazilian enforcement colleagues to discuss the challenges both our countries face in protecting the intellectual property that is so vital to our economic infrastructure and security. Our countries each need strong enforcement of criminal laws to protect intellectual property rights if we are to continue to foster innovation and creativity, safeguard consumers, and create economic growth.

Intellectual property is a critical component of the economies of both Brazil and the United States. If we cannot provide strong protection of intellectual property rights, our creative industries will suffer. There will be less research and development to foster innovation, and fewer technological advances in computer software and consumer products. And we risk falling behind in achieving much needed advances in new medicines and medical care that our scientists, universities and corporations develop.

Thanks to advances in technologies -- in particular the increasing accessibility of the Internet and improvements in manufacturing, transportation and shipping -- digital content such as business software and movies can be distributed to a worldwide market almost instantaneously. Even small businesses have unprecedented opportunities to market and distribute their goods and services around the world.

Unfortunately, the success of this worldwide, digital marketplace has also attracted criminals who seek to exploit and misappropriate the intellectual property of others. The same technologies that have created unprecedented opportunities for growth in legitimate economies have also created global criminal organizations that are eager to steal the creativity and profits from our domestic industries and workers. As Attorney General, I dedicate much of my time and attention countering the threats posed by these transnational criminal syndicates. These groups, who do not respect international boundaries or borders, have developed sophisticated, efficient and diverse methods for committing almost every type of intellectual property offense imaginable, including:

·         widespread online piracy of music, movies, video games, business software and other copyrighted works;

·         well-funded corporate espionage;

·         sales of counterfeit luxury goods, clothing and electronics, both on street corners and through Internet auction sites; and

·         increased international trade in counterfeit pharmaceuticals and other goods that pose a substantial risk to the health and safety of our consumers.

In the United States, we consider the theft of intellectual property to be a threat to our nation’s economic security, as I know you in Brazil do as well. This is a priority concern for President Obama and for me. The Obama Administration has taken a number of significant steps to ensure that protecting intellectual property rights remains a cornerstone of our country’s strategy for economic growth and prosperity. In 2009, President Obama appointed the first-ever Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator to serve in the White House and to work closely with an Advisory Committee composed of high level officials from all federal agencies across the United States. The IP Enforcement Coordinator, Victoria Espinel, will work with the Advisory Committee to develop a government-wide strategic plan to combat intellectual property violations. The plan will focus on all areas of intellectual property, including copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade secrets, both in the United States and abroad, and will include input from the public and from a broad cross-section of industries affected by IP theft.

Last December, Vice President Biden further demonstrated the Administration’s commitment to IP protection by convening an IP summit of high-level cabinet officials, including myself, as well as leaders of many of the IP industries, where he emphasized the importance of stronger enforcement of IP rights and improving government coordination.

And just two weeks ago, I announced the creation of a Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property. This task force will help develop and implement a multi-faceted criminal enforcement strategy with our federal, state and international partners to effectively combat IP crime. Through this new task force, we will seek creative and aggressive enforcement strategies—under both the civil and criminal laws— to combat the ever-growing threat to intellectual property worldwide. Let me be clear again- this is a priority matter for my government.

We are also expanding our efforts to attack IP crime by incorporating the legal tools that we use to attack other types of economic crime, such as with criminal laws against smuggling, money laundering, and fraud. Moreover, because of its high profits and international scope, IP crime has increasingly become the province of international organized crime. That is why I incorporated intellectual property crime into the Department’s International Organized Crime Strategy, a strategy that seeks to identify and target the most serious criminal groups operating throughout the world. The International Organized Crime strategy and initiative bring the best our law enforcement agencies have to offer, working toward a common purpose: to dismantle the most serious organized crime groups wherever they are located throughout the globe, whatever their source of income. Increasingly, our investigations show that many of these crime groups are financing their illicit activities through the theft of intellectual property and sale of counterfeit goods. This poses a significant threat to all our economies, and it challenges us to work together even more to combat global organized crime.

At home, our experience has shown that the increasingly sophisticated and diverse methods of committing intellectual property crime demand a more creative enforcement approach that better targets the skills and resources of our law enforcement community. The Department therefore has created two highly-specialized groups of criminal prosecutors who are devoted to the unique challenges of intellectual property enforcement. The first group is the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, in the Department’s Criminal Division. This group of 40 prosecutors and four highly-skilled Cybercrime Lab specialists focuses exclusively on computer and intellectual property crime. These attorneys prosecute many of the largest criminal IP cases that have international sources or that require multi-district coordination. They also help develop and implement the Department of Justice’s overall IP enforcement strategy nationwide, working closely with federal prosecutors in U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country.

The second group of specialized prosecutors exists in the dedicated network of more than 230 Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) coordinators and Assistant U.S. Attorneys nationwide who are located in each of our 93 United States Attorney’s Office’s across the country. These CHIP prosecutors receive highly-specialized training and unique resources with which to effectively combat the wide variety of IP crimes committed in their districts.

Of course, prosecutors are only part of the equation. Without skilled and dedicated investigative agents, there would be no cases to prosecute, and certainly fewer cases prosecuted successfully. Therefore, the Department works hand-in-hand with our law enforcement investigative partners in a variety of ways, including through the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center).  The IPR Center is led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and includes investigators and analysts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, all working together to combat counterfeiting and online piracy. 

We work hard to ensure that our prosecutors, agents and analysts have the training, technical and legal expertise to keep pace with the IP criminals. We measure our success by the quality of our prosecutions and the deterrent impact they achieve by convicting and jailing these offenders.

And our enforcement efforts require constant vigilance. The theft of a single trade secret can completely destroy a small up-and-coming company that seeks to profit on its creativity and ideas. When the trade secret is stolen to benefit another foreign power, our competitiveness in the world economy – and even our national security – can be threatened. Counterfeit drugs that are intended to treat serious illnesses and health conditions attack the very foundations of public health and safety in our countries. This is simply unacceptable.

Of course, we all know that the international scope of IP crime is very wide, and its penetration into our societies is deep. We thus have a responsibility to work with our law enforcement colleagues in other countries to disrupt the production and smuggling of counterfeit and pirated goods from their source organizations and illegal businesses. To that end, the Department partners with our foreign law enforcement counterparts whenever possible.

I am pleased that we have also worked so well with our colleagues here in Brazil over the course of many years. For example, in December 2008, the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division worked closely with Brazilian law enforcement to present a series of well-attended training programs in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasilia, which focused on the technical aspects of investigating IP crime – especially computer forensic analysis. The program appeared to have been well received, and we appreciated the opportunity to share ideas on computer forensic examinations and online investigative techniques.

We have also worked well together in the area of cybercrime and electronic evidence collection. While it will be difficult to leave Rio, I am looking forward to traveling to Brasilia tomorrow to attend the REMJA meeting of Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General of the Americas under the Organization of American States (OAS). We have worked hard through this organization’s Working Group on Cybercrime to develop stronger, harmonized laws to facilitate the collection and exchange of electronic evidence in all areas of the law, including computer and intellectual property crime. We appreciate Brazil’s contributions to the Working Group and to the numerous seminars the Working Group has organized throughout the Americas.

Like the United States, I know well that Brazil has also suffered the effects of IP crime.  Counterfeit products and pirated versions of copyrighted works directly undermine your economy and creative industries.  But Brazil is rising to face those challenges through the groundbreaking work of the National Council to Combat Piracy & Counterfeiting (CNCP).  Our colleagues on the CNCP bring creativity and hard work to bear on the task of protecting IP rights.  Since 2004 you have increased enforcement actions; you have helped to amend the law to reflect the new and changing relationship between IP and technology, and you have conducted public awareness and education campaigns to make Brazilian citizens aware of the economic harm and personal risks associated with counterfeit goods and pirated works. 

I also want to acknowledge the enforcement efforts of our hosts today from the Office of the Prosecutor General for Rio de Janeiro.  The state of Rio is a shining example of how law enforcement officials can reduce the flow of fake goods in our economies through targeted actions that have a large deterrent effect, and make criminals aware that IP crimes are treated no less seriously than narcotics or firearm offenses, or frauds and other economic crimes.

We applaud those efforts and the significant results they have achieved. But we can and must do more. We are not close to all that we can, and should, do. Brazil and the United States have taken leadership roles in the world in tackling the problems of counterfeiting and piracy, and as leaders we should work together at every opportunity to reach our goals.  It is against this backdrop, that I am very excited to work with Brazil on developing a regional approach that brings together law enforcement experts from across the Americas with a mutual goal of increasing international cooperation in combating IP crime in the region. I look forward to finding additional opportunities to collaborate on the protection of intellectual property rights and other areas of shared interest.

Thank you, again, for your gracious hospitality today. I look forward to working with all of you in the months and years ahead and building a stronger partnership between our two great nations.

Thank you.

Intellectual Property
Updated March 14, 2016