Posts Tagged ‘Intellectual Property’
Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

The partner of the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz has called his prosecution “political,” after reading a report in the Huffington Post of a briefing last week for congressional staffers given by a Department of Justice official.

“The DOJ has told Congressional investigators that Aaron’s prosecution was motivated by his political views on copyright, ” Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman asserted in her latest blog post. “I was going to start that last paragraph with ‘In a stunning turn of events,’ but I realized that would be inaccurate — because it’s really not that surprising.”

Swartz campaigned for more public access to information. In 2011 Massachusetts federal prosecutors charged Swartz with multiple violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act after he downloaded a large volume of academic documents from online database JSTOR using Massachusetts Institute of Technology computers. The Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, to which Swartz contributed in 2008, said that activists “need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks.”

Defenders of the Internet activist, who hung himself early this year, attribute his final act to stresses related to the prospect of multiple decades in prison, though in reality he only faced a few months of jail time had he agreed to plead guilty.

Steinbrickner-Kaufman also complained that Swartz’s defense strategy put a barrier between them, as their not being married meant there was no marital privilege, meaning prosecutors could have compelled testimony from her. Asked by Main Justice what she wishes she could have said about the case to Swartz before his January suicide, she said via a Twitter direct message: “I wish I could have asked him what he had been planning to do with the data, and why he chose to do the downloads at MIT.”

The Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, to which Swartz contributed in 2008, said that activists “need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks.”

“Let me tell you,” she wrote yesterday on her Tumblr page, “really not fun to go through a few years of a serious relationship and make life-changing decisions together like whether you should take a plea bargain, while having to worry that something you tell the other person could be used against you in a court of law.”

Stinebrickner-Kauffman said Tuesday that her characterization of the prosecution being “political” was not one that her partner shared during his lifetime.

He thought it was overreach by some local prosecutors who didn’t really understand the internet and just saw him as a high-profile scalp they could claim, facilitated by a criminal justice system and computer crime laws specifically designed to give prosecutors, however incompetent or malicious, all the wrong incentives and all the power they could ever want.

Last Friday Associate Deputy Attorney General Steven Reich briefed congressional staff about the prosecution, and some of those staffers spoke anonymously to The Huffington Post. They indicated that DOJ officials gleaned motive from his political writings, although Swartz hadn’t distributed the JSTOR content.  The HuffPo said that the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto “demonstrated [to prosecutors] Swartz’s malicious intent in downloading documents on a massive scale.”

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday called for tighter cooperation between public and private sector leaders to help the Justice Department address one of its top priorities: the protection of intellectual property rights.

Eric Holder (photo by Andrew Ramonas/Main Justice)

Appearing at a White House forum on IP theft with federal law enforcement officials, Holder said the DOJ is strongly committed to stemming the flow of fake drugs, counterfeit electronic parts and other bogus items into the U.S. marketplace. But he said the DOJ cannot effectively fight IP crimes alone.

“Collaboration is essential across the federal government and with our law enforcement partners, our foreign counterparts and also, most importantly, with the business community,” Holder said. “This collaboration must become more seamless.”

The White House announced at the forum that Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Yahoo! Inc., MasterCard Inc., Visa Inc., American Express Co., Inc., Neustar Inc., eNom Inc. and EBay Inc.’s Paypal Inc. have agreed to help create a non-profit organization dedicated to rooting out online pharmacies that sell counterfeit medicine.

Holder and Assistant Attorney General Tony West of the Civil Division said at the forum that the DOJ is already working hard to stop the sale of fake drugs on Internet. West said the DOJ has created a dedicated team of attorneys to handle counterfeit drug cases, and is focused on efforts to maintain the integrity of legal pharmacies, teach consumers about the dangers of unregulated pharmaceuticals and enforce intellectual property laws.

“These unregulated online pharmacies, they often masquerade as legitimate,” West said. “But they really open an illicit channel, which goes around our health and safety laws and regulations because they promise huge rewards and profits and, many believe, relatively low risks to those who offend.”

The Attorney General touted the successful prosecutions of En Wang and Hazim Gaber on charges stemming from the distribution of counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

Gaber, a Canadian citizen, was convicted in August for using the Internet to sell counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Wang, the owner of a Houston-based company, was convicted in September in a conspiracy to traffic fake drugs that were discovered to contain a chemical used to create sheetrock.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Criminal Division said at the forum that IP theft can have serious consequences for Americans’ health and U.S. businesses.

“All too often, IP is not treated as a serious crime because it’s perceived as a victimless crime,” Breuer said. “But of course, nothing could be further from the truth.”

Holder said the launch in February of DOJ’s Task Force on Intellectual Property has helped build stronger relationships with federal agencies to better protect IP rights.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton and White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel, who were also at the forum, credited successes in IP criminal enforcement to their partnerships with the DOJ.

“We appreciate the partnerships that we have, especially with the Justice Department, which is critical to our joint success,” Napolitano said.

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Tuesday, December 14th, 2010






Thank you, Victoria [Espinel].  It’s a privilege to join you, Secretary Napolitano, Director Morton – and so many other critical partners – as we kick off today’s discussion.  And I want to thank you and Andrew [Kline], and the rest of your team, for your work in organizing this event and bringing us all together.

This summit provides a unique and important opportunity to build on the progress that we have achieved over the last year in combating intellectual property crimes and protecting consumer health and safety.  Through the efforts of policymakers and prosecutors, investigators and industry executives, law enforcement officers and consumer advocates, we have taken historic steps forward.  The comprehensive strategic plan that the Administration released this past summer is already helping the Department to focus and streamline its enforcement efforts.  And the work Victoria and her team are doing to help coordinate the agencies’ implementation of that plan has been exemplary.

While I am confident – and encouraged – that we are on the right path, we cannot yet be satisfied.  And we must not become complacent.

All of us must do more to ensure the health and safety of our citizens, to protect intellectual property rights, to safeguard innovation, and to combat the growing number of organized criminal networks that profit by peddling counterfeits.  We do not have time to waste. And every person in this room has a role to play.

Today, when the theft of a single trade secret can destroy a burgeoning small business, America’s entrepreneurs and industry leaders are relying on strong IP enforcement.  So are American consumers – and American families.  When criminals sell counterfeit drugs or medical devices, real patients can pay the price.  When knock-off electronic components or other parts make their way into our industrial and military supply chains, real people can get hurt.  When profiteers substitute low-quality materials to make bullet-proof vests, it puts real law-enforcement officers in danger.  Put simply, when fake goods find their way into our nation’s marketplaces – the health and safety of our people can be severely compromised.

Our nation’s fight against dangerous counterfeits has never been more critical.  But, as you all know, this work has never been more difficult.

The same technologies that spur growth in the legitimate economy also allow criminals to misappropriate the creativity of our innovators and entrepreneurs – and to operate criminal enterprises that profit by selling imitations of legitimate products.

In fact, for every quantum leap we have made technologically or commercially, criminals – and often entire international criminal syndicates – have kept pace.  They have developed sophisticated methods for counterfeiting products and trademarks – offenses that can have devastating consequences for individuals, families, and communities.  But these crimes – like other thefts of intellectual property – have serious economic consequences as well.  They threaten the economic opportunities and financial stability of firms that sell legitimate goods. They suppress the ingenuity of our people and businesses.  And they destroy jobs.

Trafficking in counterfeits is not victimless.  And the Justice Department is committed to making sure that it is not seen as a safe business strategy.

Through the leadership of the Department’s Criminal and Civil Divisions and our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, through the great work of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center – and with the help of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE, the FBI, and many other agency and law enforcement partners – we are succeeding in our efforts to safeguard intellectual property rights, and to protect consumer health and safety.

I am particularly proud of the work we are doing to fight intellectual property crime in the courtroom.

Over the last year, the Justice Department has made significant progress in prosecuting individuals and international criminal organizations that traffic in counterfeit goods and pharmaceuticals.

In August, 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.  He is now behind bars and has been sentenced to almost three years in prison.

This fall, a jury in Houston, Texas, convicted a defendant of conspiring with people in China to traffic in counterfeit medicine.  In this case, our partners in U.S. Customs and Border Patrol discovered more than 6,000 counterfeit pills that were intended for distribution.  These pills weren’t just misbranded – they were found to contain a substance that is used to manufacture sheetrock.  That’s right, sheetrock.

Earlier this year, in Richmond, Virginia, the Justice Department won convictions in one of the largest IP 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 eight manufacturing plants.  In this case – as in so many others – the assistance of foreign partners proved essential.

On the Monday following Thanksgiving – known as “Cyber Monday” because it’s billed as the busiest online shopping day of the year – Director Morton and I announced the results of a joint operation to disrupt the online sale of counterfeit goods and copyrighted media.  Working together, ICE and DOJ executed seizure warrants against more than eighty Internet domain names that led to websites offering “bargain prices” for a diverse array of counterfeit goods.  The deals, of course, were too good to be true.

By seizing these Internet domain names, we disrupted the sale of thousands of counterfeit items.  We cut off funds to those seeking to profit from the sale of illegal goods – and willing to exploit the ingenuity of others.  Perhaps most important, we reminded consumers to exercise caution when looking for deals and discounts online.

We are also working to strengthen IP enforcement by investing in new technologies and communication tools; by supporting the development of public education campaigns; by encouraging collaboration with private sector partners; and by incorporating the legal tools we use routinely to combat money laundering, fraud, and other types of economic crime.  We have also included intellectual property crime as a focus area of the Justice Department’s International Organized Crime Strategy.  And, as Victoria mentioned, in February of this year, I reestablished the Justice Department’s Task Force on Intellectual Property.

Through the Task Force, and other efforts, we have improved coordination with our partners in federal law enforcement and with our foreign counterparts.  And, less than two months ago, I traveled to Hong Kong and China to meet with our international partners to discuss how we can improve bilateral enforcement efforts and close current gaps in our enforcement mechanisms.

Put simply, the Justice Department’s commitment – and my own commitment – to combating IP crimes has never been stronger.  But I realize that we simply cannot meet our goals and responsibilities on our own.  Collaboration is essential, across the federal government, and with our law enforcement partners, foreign counterparts, and the business community.  This collaboration must become more seamless.

Events like this forum are a step in the right direction.  Together, we are signaling – to each other; to those we’re working to protect; and to those we’re determined to identify, stop, and bring to justice – that a new era of IP enforcement has begun.

So many of you are doing tremendous work to strengthen – and to highlight – our nation’s intellectual property enforcement efforts.  I urge each of you to keep it up.  The partnership that Victoria announced today is an important step forward.  The Internet remains a haven for illegal pharmacies and other operations that pose a danger to the American people, and we need a concerted, collaborative effort to put these illegal operations out of business.

With your help, I believe we can turn the page on a problem that threatens consumer safety and our nation’s economic security.  Together, I am confident that we can ensure that online intellectual property crime – so long seen as the domain of the future – can become a marker of the past.

Thank you all.


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Monday, July 26th, 2010

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has issued his most recent report on pork-barrel spending at the Department of Justice, titled “Party at the DOJ.” We were flipping through it and boy, the DOJ sure does look bad, hosting frivolous events like dances, trips to amusement parks and … a party for McGruff the Crime Dog.

Our original photo (photo by Christopher M. Matthews / Main Justice)

Wait – a party for McGruff? That’s our photo illustrating the senator’s report, right there on Page 13. The photo is from a recent event we covered on the rooftop at Venable LLP’s offices in Washington, featuring Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurie Robinson and the law enforcement canine mascot.

But our photo is copyrighted. And Sen. Coburn never contacted us for reprint rights.

Screen grab of Coburn's "Party at the DOJ" report.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on which Coburn sits oversees intellectual property rights, including copyright law. Surely the senator and his staff know better than to use a Senate-accredited news organization’s photo without permission?

There’s a roiling debate in the beleaguered news industry about erecting pay walls, how much of a copyrighted article is “fair use” for bloggers to reproduce, and other existential issues involving a lack of payment for our expensive content production.

We don’t mind that Coburn used our copyrighted photo for partisan political purposes. We do mind that he didn’t pay us for it.

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Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Vice President Joseph Biden is flanked by Attorney General Eric Holder and Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel at an event to introduce the U.S. intellectual property enforcement strategy. (Getty)

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.

Intellectual Property Strategic Plan

Monday, April 26th, 2010

The Justice Department is appointing 15 new Assistant U.S. Attorneys and 20 FBI Special Agents to combat intellectual property crimes both domestically and abroad.

The new AUSA positions, announced by the DOJ on Monday — World Intellectual Property Day, will be part of the department’s Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) program and spread throughout offices in California, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

The 20 new FBI Special Agents will be assigned to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and D.C.

“Intellectual property law enforcement is central to protecting our nation’s ability to remain at the forefront of technological advancement, business development and job creation,” Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler said in a statement. “The department, along with its federal partners throughout the administration, will remain ever vigilant in this pursuit as American entrepreneurs and businesses continue to develop, innovate and create.”

In December, Attorney General Eric Holder met at a White House summit with entertainment industry executives to discuss combating intellectual property crimes. During a meeting in Brazil in February, Holder pledged strong enforcement of intellectual property rights. Last month, a leaked draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement revealed that the U.S. has been pushing for rules that ask service providers to cut off internet access for repeat offenders.

Read the entire news release below.


WASHINGTON – As part of the Department of Justice’s ongoing initiative to confront intellectual property (IP) crimes, Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary G. Grindler announced today the appointment of 15 new Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) positions and 20 FBI Special Agents to be dedicated to combating domestic and international IP crimes.

These new positions – announced on the 10th annual World Intellectual Property Day – are part of the department’s continued commitment to combat the growing number of IP crimes here at home, and abroad. The new AUSA positions will be part of the department’s Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) program.

“Intellectual property law enforcement is central to protecting our nation’s ability to remain at the forefront of technological advancement, business development and job creation,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler. “The department, along with its federal partners throughout the Administration, will remain ever vigilant in this pursuit as American entrepreneurs and businesses continue to develop, innovate and create.”

The 15 new Assistant U.S. Attorneys will work closely with the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) to aggressively pursue high tech crime, including computer crime and intellectual property offenses. The new positions will be located in California, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

The 20 new FBI Special Agents announced today will be deployed to specifically augment four geographic areas with intellectual property squads, and increase investigative capacity in other locations around the country where IP crimes are of particular concern. The four squads will be located in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and the District of Columbia. The squads will allow for more focused efforts in particular hot spot areas and increased contact and coordination with our state and local law enforcement partners. The 20 new agents will join the 31 agents devoted to investigating IP crimes who have already been deployed to field offices around the country.

“Theft of intellectual property – from inventions to trademarks and copyrights, to industrial designs and trade secrets – is a worldwide problem. It affects individuals and corporations financially and can threaten public safety. The additional FBI agents will significantly strengthen the efforts of our squads investigating intellectual property rights violations and help bring to justice those who seek to profit from intellectual property theft,” said Assistant Director Gordon M. Snow of the FBI Cyber Division.

Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler serves as chair of the department’s Task Force on Intellectual Property, which was established earlier this year by Attorney General Eric Holder to coordinate the department’s efforts on IP crimes. The task force focuses on strengthening efforts to combat intellectual property crimes through close coordination with state and local law enforcement partners as well as international counterparts. As part of its mission, the task force works together with the Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), housed in the Executive Office of the President, to implement an Administration-wide strategic plan on intellectual property.

The task force includes representatives from the offices of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, and the Associate Attorney General; the Criminal Division; the Civil Division; the Antitrust Division; the Office of Legal Policy; the Office of Justice Programs; the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee; the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys and the FBI.

World Intellectual Property Day was established by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to recognize the importance of protecting intellectual property rights and enforcing their laws. Each year on April 26th, WIPO and its member states seek to increase public understanding of intellectual property through activities, events and campaigns.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder emphasized the importance of enforcing intellectual property rights during a trip to Brazil on Wednesday, saying that preventing IP theft is a “priority concern” for the Attorney General and President Barack Obama.

Attorney General Eric Holder, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and FBI Director Robert Mueller at a meeting with entertainment industry representatives in December (photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice).

Holder’s speech comes a day after U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel requested input from the public on the enforcement of intellectual property rights in a White House blog post and less than two weeks after the Justice Department announced the creation of the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property.

That task force was announced after a December meeting in which Vice President Joe Biden pledged that the Obama administration would work to combat piracy in the rapidly changing technological age. The December meeting featured several high ranking government officials including Secretary for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and FBI Director Robert Mueller, as well as entertainment industry executives.

At the Rio de Janeiro Prosecutor General’s Office, Holder said that Brazil and the United States “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.”

The 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,” Holder said. “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.”

Holder’s prepared remarks:

“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 build a stronger partnership between our great two nations.

Thank you.”

Friday, December 18th, 2009
Jason Weinstein at a House subcommittee hearing on intellectual property rights last week (photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice).

Jason Weinstein at a House subcommittee hearing on intellectual property rights last week (photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice).

Ahead of a White House round-table meeting between entertainment executives and high level government officials earlier this week, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein testified before a House subcommittee on the Justice Department’s efforts to protect intellectual property.

Weinstein reported that the Justice Department was working with foreign government agency partners in Europe and Asia. The “cornerstone” of the department’s efforts, said Weinstein, is the Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordinator (IPLEC) program. Working with the State Department, DOJ “deployed two experienced federal prosecutors to serve as coordinators in Bangkok, Thailand, for Southeast Asia and Sofia, Bulgaria, for Eastern Europe.”

One of the major problem areas for intellectual property right enforcement has been China, Weinstein told lawmakers. Diane Watson (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Oversight and Government Reform panel’s subcommittee on Government Management, Organization and Procurement, said China is the expert on stealing intellectual property.

Weinstein said China “had been a significant source of counterfeit and pirated products imported into the United States and presents an especially greater challenge to U.S. law enforcement.” He said the department has “prioritized developing strong working relationships with Chinese law enforcement officials.” One of the projects that came out of the cooperation between U.S. and Chinese law enforcement was Operation Summer Solstice, the largest-ever joint criminal enforcement operation between the FBI and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. That effort resulted in the arrest of 25 people. Eleven Summer Solstice defendants have been convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from one-and-a-half to six-and-a-half years, Weinstein said.

Most recently, reports the New York Times, the Chinese government is clamping down on Internet file-sharing sites:

Under the new controls, more than 700 Web sites have been shut down, including many that offered free movies, television dramas and music downloads. BT China, which recorded at least 250,000 visits daily, was among them. China’s largest file-sharing site, Very CD, must obtain a new license or face possible shutdown as well, according to news media reports.

Weinstein’s full testimony before the subcommittee is embedded below.

DAAG Weinstein Testimony

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

The European Commission today announced it had dropped an antitrust case against the software maker after it agreed to give consumers easier access to rival Web browsers.

The competition regulator of the European Union had been investigating Microsoft since 2007 over the matter.

The maker of Windows said it would offer an update to users who chose its Explorer browser through a default setting on the computer operating system software. The update next year will allow those users to select other browsers including those made by Google, Apple and Mozilla.

Microsoft has agreed to offer a Windows Update that includes a “Choice Screen” which will allow users to choose their preferred browser. In addition, computer manufacturers will be able to install browsers other than Internet Explorer and set one of those as the default browser. The agreement covers the 27 member countries of the European Union and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

The Norwegian maker of the Opera browser had complained to the commission in 2007 that Microsoft used its near-monopoly position in the PC-operating system market to stymie competition among browsers.

In a statement, EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: “Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which web browser they use. Such choice will not only serve to improve people’s experience of the Internet now but also act as an incentive for web browser companies to innovate and offer people better browsers in the future.”

The commission previously had fined Microsoft €1.68 billion, or $2.44 billion, for business practices related to the markets for back-end sever software software and media players.

Brad Smith, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Microsoft, on Wednesday released the following statement:

“We are pleased with today’s decision by the European Commission, which approves a final resolution of several longstanding competition law issues in Europe. We look forward to building on the dialogue and trust that has been established between Microsoft and the Commission and to extending our industry leadership on interoperability.

Today’s resolution follows years of intensive examination by the European Commission of competition in computer software. The measures approved today reflect multiple rounds of input from industry participants relating to competition in Web browser software and interoperability between various Microsoft products and competing products.

The Web browser measures cover the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows for users in Europe—specifically the region known as the European Economic Area, which includes 30 nations. Under today’s resolution, Microsoft commits that PC manufacturers and users will continue to be able to install any browser on top of Windows, to make any browser the default browser on new PCs, and to turn access to Internet Explorer on or off. In addition, Microsoft will send a “browser choice” screen to Windows users who are running Internet Explorer as their default browser. This browser choice screen will present a list of browsers, making it easy for users to install any one of them. It will be provided both to users of new computers and to the installed base of Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 computers in Europe where Internet Explorer is set as the default browser.

The second measure is a “public undertaking” that covers interoperability with Microsoft’s products—the way our high-share products work with non-Microsoft technologies. This applies to an important set of Microsoft’s products—our Windows, Windows Server, Office, Exchange, and SharePoint products. We believe it represents the most comprehensive commitment to the promotion of interoperability in the history of the software industry. Under this undertaking, Microsoft will ensure that developers throughout the industry, including in the open source community, will have access to technical documentation to assist them in building products that work well with Microsoft products. Microsoft will also support certain industry standards in its products and fully document how these standards are supported. Microsoft will make available legally-binding warranties that will be offered to third parties.

Our interoperability undertaking reflects the policy outlined by the European Commission in a major policy speech given by Commissioner Neelie Kroes in June 2008. At that time, the Commissioner said that companies offering high-share software products should be required to (i) disclose technical specifications to enable interoperability; (ii) ensure that competitors can access complete and accurate information and have a remedy if not; and (iii) ensure that the technical specifications are available at fair royalty rates, based on the inherent value of the technology disclosed. Our interoperability undertaking, developed through extensive consultation, implements this approach in full.

As we’ve said before, we are embarking on a path that will require significant change within Microsoft. Nevertheless, we believe that these are important steps that resolve these competition law concerns.

This is an important day and a major step forward, and we look forward to building a new foundation for the future in Europe.”

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

A trial attorney in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, Robert Mahnke, went to Brussels last week for a closed-door hearing on Oracle Corporation’s proposed purchase of Sun Microsystems, Inc., according to a person familiar with the matter.

After competition regulators in the European Union raised concerns about the $7.4 billion deal last month, the Justice Department issued a statement announcing it had not found the same concerns. The different conclusions led to a series of exchanges that highlighted public tension between the two agencies.

According to an attorney who was at the Oracle hearing, Mahnke, who works in the networks and technology section of the division, was in Brusses largely on a peace-keeping mission.

“He was reassuring people that the statement had been misrepresented, and reassuring people it was a bit of a blip. On most things [the two agencies] do see eye-to-eye,” said the attorney who spoke about the closed hearing on condition of anonymity.

A Justice Department spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

While not unprecedented, observers say, the DOJ is not often represented at similar hearings in Europe. “It’s unusual but it seems like it’s a constructive step,” said Douglas Rosenthal, a partner at Constantine Cannon who previously served in the Antitrust Division as head of the foreign commerce section.

“Over the years there have been many meetings at which Europeans sent staff to talk about cases and vice versa,” he said. “It is the next step to be at a hearing.”

The trip comes amid a push on the part of American antitrust regulators to increase cooperation with their counterparts in Europe. Last month, the Antirust Division hired Rachel Brandenburger, a competition lawyer with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London and Brussels, as a new top adviser on international matters.

The differences over the Oracle-Sun deal involve Sun Microsystems’ open-source database software MySQL. While DOJ attorneys found that MySQL’s light databases catered a different market than Oracle’s heavier product, European regulators argued that MySQL was becoming a competitive threat to Oracle’s proprietary databases, raising the likelihood that Oracle wouldn’t continue to support and develop it.

After the hearing in Brussels, Oracle issued a set of commitments to protect the viability of MySQL. Despite heavy protests from the open-source community, the European Commission has signaled it is moving towards approving the deal.