The Justice Department has stepped up its enforcement of intellectual property rights, deploying prosecutors overseas to focus on the issue, training lawyers in U.S. Attorneys’ offices on IP investigations and prosecutions and approving the hiring of more FBI agents to focus on IP crime, according to the Obama administration’s new strategic plan on IP enforcement unveiled Tuesday.
Attorney General Eric Holder joined Vice President Joseph Biden and Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel at the White House Tuesday morning to announce the plan, which came out of a meeting held in December.
“Whether we’re talking about fake drugs that hurt…or knock off car tires that fall apart at 65 miles per hour causing injury and death, counterfeits kill. Counterfeits kill,” Biden said.
According to the plan, the DOJ will focus on the investigation of intellectual property theft involving health and safety; trade secrets and economic espionage; and commercial online piracy and counterfeiting.
Since the DOJ’s first IP enforcement initiative in 1999, intellectual property investigations and prosecutions have increased 800 percent, the report found.
The DOJ has 220 federal prosecutors in U.S. Attorneys’ offices who are specially trained to deal with intellectual property issues under the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) coordinator program. Each U.S. Attorney’s office has at least one CHIP prosecutor, and 25 offices have a CHIP unit, the report said.
DOJ also has deployed two federal prosecutors as part of the Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordinator program — one to Bangkok, Thailand who will focus on IP enforcement in Southeast Asia, and another to Sofia, Bulgaria who will work on enforcement issues in Eastern Europe.
As part of the plan, the FBI will hire about 50 special agents by the end of fiscal 2010. The new agents will focus on IP investigations and operate out of field offices around the country and four enhanced intellectual property squads.
Holder, accompanied to the White House by Deputy Chief of Staff James Garland, did not speak at the announcement Tuesday, but said in a statement that the Justice Department “worked closely with Administration officials to develop key aspects of this strategic plan to better protect our nation’s ability to remain at the forefront of technological advancement, business development and job creation.”
The Department of Justice “is confronting this threat with a strong and coordinated response at home and abroad to ensure American entrepreneurs and businesses continue to develop, innovate and create,” Holder said.
In a statement, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) applauded Espinel’s work on the strategic plan.
“The plan highlights the importance of effective and efficient enforcement of American intellectual property rights, which in turn protects American jobs and promotes economic growth,” Leahy said.
The strategic plan is embedded below. The portion concerning the Justice Department begins on page 32.