FBI, DoJ suit-up 35 new agents; lawyers for intellectual property battle

Intellectual property crime gets FBI, DoJ attention

The FBI and Department of Justice said they were going to go hard after intellectual property crimes this year and so far they seem to be keeping their word as today the agencies appointed 15 new Assistant US Attorney  (AUSA) positions and 20 FBI Special Agents dedicated to fighting domestic and international IP crimes.   

The 15 new AUSA's will work closely with the Criminal Division's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section 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 DoJ stated.    

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The 20 FBI Special Agents will be deployed to specifically boost four geographic areas with intellectual property squads, and increase investigative capacity in other locations around the country where intellectual property crimes are of particular concern, the FBI said.  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 31 agents already devoted to investigating intellectual property crimes, the FBI stated.   

The additional personnel bolster the DoJ's newly minted Task Force on Intellectual Property set up earlier this year to focus on battling US and international intellectual property crimes. 

The Task Force works across a number of agencies including the FBI and will focus on bolstering efforts to combat intellectual property crimes through close coordination with state and local law enforcement partners as well as international counterparts, the DoJ stated. It will also monitor and coordinate overall intellectual property enforcement efforts at the DoJ, with an increased focus on the international IP enforcement, including the links between IP crime and international organized crime. The Task Force will also develop policies to address what the DoJ called evolving technological and legal landscape of this area of law enforcement.

Critics have long said the US needs to do something to put a crimp in the over $200 billion counterfeit and pirated goods industry with better enforcement and increased penalties for violations. 

The Government Accountability Office noted that a broad range of IP-protected products are subject to being counterfeited or pirated, from luxury goods and brand name apparel to computer software and digital media to food and medicine. Evidence of counterfeiting in industries whose products have a public health or safety component, such as auto and airline parts; electrical, health, and beauty products; batteries; pharmaceuticals; and infant formula, presents a significant concern. The World Health Organization estimates that as much as 10% of medicines sold worldwide are believed to be counterfeit. 

Industries that rely on IP protection-including the aerospace, automotive, computer, pharmaceutical, semiconductor, motion picture, and recording industries-are estimated to have accounted for 26% of the annual gross domestic product growth rate during this period and about 40% of U.S. exports of goods and services in 2003 through 2004. Further, they are among the highest-paying employers in the country, representing an estimated 18 million workers or 13% of the labor force, as of 2008, according to the GAO.

The GAO issued another report in intellectual property recently and found a number of interesting facts: 

  • According to Customs and Border Protection data from 2004 through 2009, China accounted for about 77% of the aggregate value of goods seized in the United States. Hong Kong, India, and Taiwan followed China, accounting for 7, 2, and 1% of the seized value, respectively. CBP data indicate certain concentrations of counterfeit production among these countries: in 2009, about 58 % of the seized goods from China were footwear and handbags; 69% of the seized goods from Hong Kong were consumer electronics and watch parts; 91% of the seized goods from India were pharmaceuticals and perfume; and 85% of seized goods from Taiwan were computers and consumer electronics.    
  • Digital products can be reproduced at very low cost, and have the potential for immediate delivery through the Internet across virtually unlimited geographic markets. Digital piracy impacts most the music, motion picture, television, publishing, and software industries. Piracy of these products over the Internet can occur through methods including peer-to-peer networks, streaming sites, and one-click hosting services. There is no government agency that systematically collects or tracks data on the extent of digital copyright piracy.   
  • According to a recent Commerce department report, counterfeit electronics parts have infiltrated U.S. defense and industrial supply chains and almost 40 % of companies and organizations-including the Department of Defense-surveyed for the report have encountered counterfeit electronics.   
  • Commerce reported that the infiltration of counterfeit parts into the supply chain was exacerbated by weaknesses in inventory management, procurement procedures, and inspection protocols, among other factors. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tracks and posts notifications of incidents of counterfeit or improperly maintained parts entering airline industry supply chains through its Suspected Unapproved Parts Program in an effort to improve flight safety. The FAA program has identified instances of counterfeit aviation parts, as well as fake data plates and history cards to make old parts look new. FAA's program highlights the risks that counterfeit parts pose to the safety of commercial aircraft.   
  • Counterfeit or pirated software may threaten consumers' computer security. The illegitimate software, for example, may contain malicious programming code that could interfere with computers' operations or violates users' privacy.   

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