DHS Steps up Fight against Intellectual Property Theft

Mike O'Brien

The U.S. government is ramping up its fight against intellectual property theft with a new initiative to guide the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts over the next three years.

The 2013 Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Joint Strategic Plan spells out the guidelines on improving national law enforcement efforts to protect intellectual property rights (IPR).

Announcing the new initiative in a blog post, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote: "Over the past four years, the DHS has worked closely with the White House Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) and our interagency partners to further strengthen intellectual property rights enforcement, and promote American innovation and economic growth.

"The 2013 Joint Strategic Plan builds on our progress and lays out 26 specific Action Items to strengthen our intellectual property protections, increase enforcement efforts against counterfeiting networks, and encourage multi-national cooperation to protect intellectual property.

"The release of the Strategic Plan today coincides with the three-year anniversary of 'Operation In Our Sites,' the first coordinated and sustained law enforcement effort to target websites that distribute counterfeit merchandise and pirated goods."

Federal law enforcement agencies have so far carried 13 major IPR operations, resulting in the seizure of more than 1,700 domain names of offending websites and over $3 million from targeted sites.

The DHS’s work combating intellectual property theft is strengthened through collaboration with international law enforcement partners.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are working with the World Customs Organization (WCO) to develop a Cargo Targeting System (CTS), and build on the success of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) operation to expand enforcement efforts to cover counterfeit pharmaceuticals and electronic components.

The DHS is also working with the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Postal Service, to develop a program to obtain advance data from international postal operators and express carrier companies to improve targeting.

According to official figures ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has significantly increased its enforcement activities since FY 2009. That has resulted in a 71 percent increase in intellectual property cases, 159% increase in arrests, 264% increase in indictments, and 103 % increase in convictions.

Since FY 2010, ICE’s IPR Center’s number of inves­tigative leads submitted by field offices and partner agencies increased by 764 per cent.

CBP and ICE HSI intellectual property seizures have increased by 53 % since FY 2009. That includes 24,792 seizures carried out in FY 2011—the highest total number of seizures in a year to date.

Ms. Napolitano said: "To date, 21 agen­cies, including four international partners, have partnered together through the IPR Center to leverage their combined resources, skills, and authorities to better combat intellectual property theft and dismantle the criminal organizations seeking to profit from the manufacturing, importation, and sale of counterfeit merchandise and pirated works."

Many of the issues raised in this article will be discussed at IDGA’s Homeland Security 2013 summit in October. For full details, go to www.HomelandSecurityExpo.com