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Commerce Bureaus Play Key Role in Intellectual Property Accomplishments and Future Priorities

The Obama administration today released its 2013 Intellectual Property Enforcement Joint Strategic Plan. Since the issuance of its first Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement three years ago, the administration has made major accomplishments toward strengthening intellectual property (IP) enforcement, including increasing its use of trade policy tools, reducing online infringement and supporting American entrepreneurs and intellectual property-intensive industries that strengthen our economy.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), International Trade Administration (ITA) and the Office of General Counsel's Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) all play important roles in these efforts.

The USPTO undertakes a wide range of policy, legal, operational and regulatory efforts and initiatives that enhance intellectual property protection both at home and abroad. For example, USPTO provided technical assistance to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to ensure that Colombia, Korea and Panama implemented IP rights enforcement provisions in our free trade agreements with the three countries. USPTO has also conducted several capacity building initiatives and training programs, including several with foreign judges, countries and organizations to facilitate more effective IP rights enforcement systems abroad.

To help small and medium-sized American businesses interested in doing business in China, the USPTO has conducted several events nationwide providing information on patents, trade secrets, trademarks, copyright and enforcement. The USPTO also has IP attachés who actively work to improve the protection of U.S. intellectual property rights overseas. In addition to experts in the U.S., these attachés have sponsored training seminars teaching best practices in applying and enforcing intellectual property laws with representatives from nearly 20 countries. To assess the impact of intellectual property on the U.S. economy, the USPTO collaborated with Commerce’s Economic and Statistics Administration (ESA) to publish the Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus report, which found that the top IP-intensive industries in the U.S. support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion to U.S. gross domestic product.

The International Trade Administration (ITA) helps improve the overall trade environment for U.S. businesses by monitoring foreign governments’ compliance with international trade agreement obligations and actively engaging with trading partners bilaterally and multilaterally in support of this effort. ITA also works to ensure that U.S. businesses, particularly SMEs, understand how to protect and enforce their IPR internationally, so that exporting is a sustainable activity. This work includes providing individualized assistance to American businesses that face IPR-related barriers. Further, ITA participated in 68 outreach, education, and capacity-building meetings and events focusing on intellectual property rights, reaching over 1,000 U.S. and foreign industry representatives, government representatives, and consumers. ITA, along with the United States Trade Representative (USTR), also represented the United States at the July 2012 meeting of the Transatlantic Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Working Group to conduct government-to-government talks and consult with transatlantic stakeholders from both the business and NGO communities on a wide range of IPR-related issues.

Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) also works to prevent IP infringement by providing technical assistance to foreign governments looking to improve intellectual property enforcement. CLDP attorneys have held training sessions with private sector representatives and government officials from multiple countries in Africa, Europe and the Middle East to help build capacity within their judicial systems to enforce intellectual property rights. CLDP, in close coordination with Commerce’s National Technical Information Service (NTIS), is also assisting Iraq’s Ministry of Science and Technology with developing a national repository of information that will help the country boost its economy, thanks in part to the new environment resulting from CLDP’s judicial capacity building efforts.

In addition to accomplishments, the 2013 Joint Strategic Plan lists specific action items the administration plans to work on to further strengthen our IP protections over the next three years. As part of those efforts, ITA is aiming to increase their outreach efforts to support intellectual property protection for small and medium-sized enterprises in foreign markets. USPTO plans to start a process that will assess the effectiveness of voluntary initiatives to reduce online IP infringement. In addition, USPTO and the U.S. Copyright Office will consider “small claims” courts for copyright and patent holders.

Through these and other concrete actions, the Commerce Department will continue working to improve IP enforcement efforts at home and around the world. Strong intellectual property protections are vital to ensuring that American businesses have the ability to innovate and compete, and, thereby, strengthen our economy.

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