House Judiciary Members Introduce Bill to Protect Creative and Intellectual Property Rights

Washington, DC - In an effort to strengthen laws protecting creative and intellectual property, leaders of the House Judiciary Committee today introduced bipartisan legislation to improve federal agency enforcement efforts and provide more resources to those efforts. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-TX), Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA), and Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Tom Feeney (R-FL), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Ric Keller (R-FL), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and Robert Wexler (D-FL) introduced the "Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (“PRO IP”) Act of 2007" to combat what they say is an increasing problem.

"This legislation is an important and necessary step in the fight to maintain our competitive edge in a global marketplace," Chairman Conyers said. "By providing additional resources for enforcement of intellectual property, we ensure that innovation and creativity will continue to prosper in our society."

“Intellectual property is not just the product of rock stars and movie stars. It accounts for more than 11 million American jobs and is a driving force in our economy,” said Rep. Schiff.  “American intellectual property is leading the way all around the world and this bill will help ensure that we protect this work from being stolen in the black market.”

The bipartisan PRO IP bill is supported by both labor unions and industry groups because of the increasing global economic cost of counterfeiting and piracy - which is currently between $500 and $600 billion/year in lost sales and approximately 5% - 7% of global trade. It costs the United States between $200 and $250 billion/year in lost sales, including 750,000 jobs. The healthcare industry also faces an increasing problem: the World Health Organization estimates that the prevalence of counterfeit pharmaceuticals ranges from less than 1% in developed countries to over 30% in developing countries, and over 50% of counterfeit pharmaceuticals are obtained from illicit websites. The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest estimates that counterfeit drug commerce will grow 13% annually through 2010, nearly twice the rate of legitimate pharmaceuticals.

"The Subcommittee on Intellectual Property will be holding a hearing next week on this extremely important issue," said Subcommittee Chairman Berman.  "As a cosponsor, I obviously feel very strongly that we must strengthen enforcement efforts to fight piracy and counterfeiting.  At the hearing, we will be hearing testimony from both industry experts and from labor and consumer advocates to make sure that in doing so, we don't deny appropriate access to America's intellectual property."

“Protecting intellectual property, such as trademarks and copyrights, is critical to the preserving a strong American economy,” stated Ranking Member Smith. “Counterfeiting and pirating intellectual property costs American jobs, reduces American prosperity and threatens the existence of American companies. By protecting intellectual property, this bill preserves American jobs, encourages innovation and helps build a strong American economy.”

“Our founding fathers understood the importance of innovation so well that they specifically provided strong protection for intellectual property in the Constitution itself," said Rep. Feeney. "Intellectual property piracy and counterfeiting undermine the creative spirit that drives our economy and constitute a threat to consumer health and safety, and this initiative will provide us with more tools to address this growing problem.”

Specifically, the PRO IP bill does the following:

  • Titles I and II strengthen the substantive civil and criminal laws relating to copyright and trademark infringement.
  • Title III of the legislation establishes the Office of the United States Intellectual Property Enforcement Representative (USIPER), in the Executive Office of the President, to enhance nationwide and international coordination of intellectual property enforcement efforts.
  • Title IV provides for the appointment of intellectual property officers to work with foreign countries in their efforts to combat counterfeiting and piracy.
  • Title V of the legislation authorizes the creation of a permanent Intellectual Property Division within the Department of Justice. The purpose of the new IP Division is to improve law enforcement coordination. This is accomplished, in part, by transferring the functions of the existing Computer Crime and Intellectual Property section (CCIPs) that relate to intellectual property enforcement to the new IP Division. In addition, Title V provides DOJ with new resources targeted to improve IP law enforcement, including local law enforcement grants and additional investigative and prosecutorial personnel. It also requires that DOJ prepare an annual report that details its IP enforcement activities.