REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT AND VICTORIA ESPINEL, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ENFORCEMENT COORDINATOR,
ON THE U.S. GOVERNMENT’S INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ENFORCEMENT STRATEGY
Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C.
11:17 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Welcome, everybody. We’re going to be relatively brief here. Thank you for being here. I’m going to ask Victoria, who was responsible for drafting this significant report here, to make a couple of opening statements. And I’m going to have a few things to say. And then, we’re going to get down to the business of how we implement all this.
Victoria, the floor is yours.
MS. ESPINEL: When Congress created this office, the office of the first United States Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, they envisioned an ambitious plan on intellectual property enforcement. And I am proud to sit here today and say that this administration has delivered such a plan.
First, let me thank the Vice President for his leadership. I also want to thank the Cabinet members and their excellent teams for the long hours they have committed and will continue to commit to protecting America’s ideas and ingenuity.
We received and reviewed more than 1,600 public comments in putting together this strategy, all of which are on our web site for you to read. These responses describe the problems facing the American workers, artists, engineers and scientists, and provided many recommendations for how their government could help.
I met face to face with the people who live with these issues day to day: the small businesses concerned about losing jobs to counterfeiting, the clean tech company whose investors are concerned about theft overseas, and entertainment production workers and technicians whose pension funds are at risk as piracy drains their funding.
These meetings with, and comments from, the public helped us to identify 33 action items to combat intellectual property infringement. These fall into six broad categories.
First, we will lead by example and we will ensure that the United States government does not use infringing products.
Second, we will be transparent and we will ensure that the public has good information about our policies and our actions.
Third, we will improve coordination to increase our efficiency and our effectiveness.
Fourth, we will work with foreign governments to enforce our rights overseas. We will go after foreign-based web sites and other entities that violate American intellectual property rights. And we will prioritize enforcement in important foreign markets such as China.
Fifth, we will secure our domestic supply chain, give law enforcement more authority, and we will encourage voluntary cooperation by the private sector to reduce infringing products that are entering our country through our borders and over the Internet.
Finally, we will collect better data, so that we understand the jobs and the exports that are tied to intellectual property. And we will also assess our laws to ensure they are as effective as possible in order to combat theft of our ideas and our creativity.
As a result of what we, the United States government, have committed to do in this plan, I say to those that are suffering from infringement, help is on the way. We understand the problems that you face, and we will work to make things better. We will protect you, so that you can get back to doing what you do best, which is developing America’s next great idea.
To those who have for too long abused the rights of America’s creators, I have a warning for you — we are committed to putting you out of business.
Now that we have unveiled our first joint strategic plan on intellectual property enforcement, the hard work of implementing begins to ensure that we are protecting our citizens, our businesses, and our workers. I look forward to working with the President — the Vice President, the Cabinet members, the Congress — and our public as we move forward with the goal of protecting America’s intellectual property rights and the American jobs, growth, and prosperity that come with them.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. And, by the way, thanks for this report. This is a really thorough report. I’ve been doing — I’ve been engaged in this back in the days as chairman of Judiciary Committee. I’ve been engaged in this for a long, long time. The problem is not new. It’s getting worse, but the problem is not new.
And one of the things that’s been lacking, in my view, is a comprehensive approach and getting everybody in the deal. So what we’re going to be talking about later is how we implement some of these 30-plus recommendations.
But to state it very bluntly and obviously, piracy hurts. It hurts our economy to the tune of billions — some argue tens of billions of dollars — in lost private sector profit and government revenue. It hurts our health and safety, the health and safety — that’s why the FDA commissioner is here, in part. But we don’t usually think of it this way. It hurts the health and safety of our citizens. We need to protect our citizens from unsafe products: counterfeit auto parts, semiconductors used in medical devices that aren’t quality tested, counterfeit pharmaceuticals that put lives at risk.
Whether we’re talking about fake drugs that hurt instead of help the patient or knockoff car tires that fall apart at 65 miles an hour causing injury and death, counterfeits kill — counterfeits kill. There’s a reason why they counterfeit, they don’t know how to do it in the first place.
So it also — to state the obvious — it stifles creativity. Perhaps our greatest export — perhaps our greatest export is America’s creative impulse. Our ability to move people around the world through creativity works. It’s been working. It’s had dramatic impact on culture, just a dramatic impact on our interests. And criminals are working every day — every day to steal it from us. And, again, it’s billions of dollars.
And, look, we used to avoid saying this in this town. Piracy is theft, clean and simple. It’s nothing but theft. It’s smash and grab, no different than the guy walking down Fifth Avenue and smashing the window of Tiffany’s and reaching in and grabbing what’s in the window. This is theft, clear and simple.
And theft in every culture people would acknowledge should be punished. And so in intellectual property is no different. We need a true government-wide effort, and that’s what’s being proposed here to deal with this pervasive theft.
In December, we met and I said with the President’s instruction and my longtime commitment — and all of us around here — that we had to crack down on this. We had to come up with a government-wide plan. And all the members of the Cabinet had to take the challenge seriously. They have. They are. And they will.
Customs had made nearly 10,000 seizures — that’s 30 percent increase compared to last year. Over the last six months, the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been really hard at work. It made 166 arrests, seized goods valued at 350 million bucks.
DHS has also formed a national network of international property theft enforcement teams around to country — they didn’t exist before — 22 of them. And they include 70 federal, state, and local law partners working together to deal with intellectual property theft.
Look, the intellectual property rights center at Homeland Security is working with the private sector to target criminals stealing and posting their movies on the Internet before they’re even released in movie theaters, hard to believe. I mean, literally, they’re selling this so you can buy some of these breakthrough movies on the streets of China before they’re shown in the first movie theater here in the United States.
Not just China, by the way. I’m not picking on China. There’s a lot of other countries, including some of our close allies, where they haven’t acted appropriately.
The Department of Justice has appointed 20 additional FBI special agents dedicated to IP enforcement. These agents join the 31 agents already deployed to field offices around the country, devoted to and investigating intellectual property theft. DOJ has appointed another — appointed 15 new prosecutors to get engaged in this fight.
And everyone around this table has taken steps to fight piracy, business we’ve got to do more. And that’s what we’re here to discuss. Again, we have a clear game plan, and it’s about implementing this game plan.
Today, as we’ve just been — just been stated in unveiling this game plan, we got to figure out now the detail of how to implement it, even though everybody was involved in the formation of this plan. This strategy as evidenced, as stated already, has 33 — 33 specific items and I just want to highlight a few. And then, I’ll end.
Federal law enforcement has begun to target websites and others that are trafficking in pirated goods. And we have made sure that the countries in which these websites emanate from know that we want those sites shut down. Now, the difference here is we’ve talked about that before –we’re going to shine a light now.
If the website is open, if it’s clearly involved in piracy in a country that’s not taking action, we’re going to be as public as we possibly can about the fact they’re not acting and there needs to be action, as we shine a spotlight on foreign governments that have rogue actors doing illicit business within their borders. It’s the government’s responsibility to respond.
And we’ll be proposing legislation that’s in the process of being drafted now to require companies to notify the FDA when they find counterfeit products. Right now that’s not a requirement, a company — and there’s incentives not to, not to let the FDA know, because they’re worried about brand, they’re worried about their reputations, they’re worried — but we want a requirement, a requirement that the FDA has to be notified when any company finds counterfeit products among their products, and give the FDA the ability to track those products.
We’re setting up a government-wide working group to make sure our supply chain is free of counterfeit products. Now, look, whether we’re talking about fake Kevlar vests — and there are fake Kevlar vests being purchased — sold and purchased in the United States of America — or a bolt that fails on an airplane engine, we can’t afford to purchase fake goods. This is not just about whether or not the new Robin Hood movie — which is a multimillion-dollar theft, if you take a look at it that way — it’s not just about whether or not our creative talent is being affected; it’s about whether or not you put a Kevlar vest on a guy in Kandahar or a cop in the middle of one of our major cities, whether it works.
And so we just want to make it real clear: We’re going after people. We’re going after the web sites. We’re going to go after those folks who in fact sell us things that in fact have the effect of putting the lives of Americans in jeopardy.
The U.S. government also has to step in — in place to ensure that our agencies only use legal software. I know that sounds crazy, but we within the federal government, we are scrubbing all the agencies to make sure whatever software they’re using is not counterfeit; to make sure it’s legal, it’s real, it’s the initial product, it’s what it says it is. And we want now to go well beyond what we’re doing in each of the agencies and anyone who contracts with us to do a federal project, to work with the federal government, to ensure that they — they are only using the real deal and not a counterfeit, which is cheaper but also not reliable.
We need to make the private sector — we need the private sector to weigh in even more to address online theft of intellectual property. Counterfeit drugs are a scourge and our consumers aren’t safe. And they don’t know what they’re buying online many times. I applaud Google, Yahoo and Bing for the steps they’ve taken in recent weeks to stop selling advertising to illegal Internet pharmacies. But — but — we need to go further. It’s time for others to step up to, it’s time to stop supporting ads for drugs sold illegally over the Internet — and for a simple reason: for the public health of American — of our population.
And so, look, the Internet delivery companies in movies, television, recording industries all tell me that we need to have a strong and fair effort in supporting illegal downloads online. There are discussions going on right now between the content community and the Internet service providers. Everyone needs to be working together and pulling their weight to fight the harm that is done to our economy and our people by this intellectual property theft. And we hope that we can find a practical and effective way to reduce piracy online. But it takes cooperation between the content community as well as the Internet service providers. Not easy, but absolutely necessary.
Again, there are 33 items in this report that has been done, 33 specific recommendations, 33 ways we commit ourselves to deal with this scourge. And we’re making progress. I’ve been around a while. It’s good news. In the AFL-CIO, the Chamber of Commerce and law enforcement and other diverse groups — all are on the same page. That is a very encouraging development. And now — I’m not joking about that.
And now it’s time, we have to bear down on implementing these recommendations. That’s what, when you all leave, we’re going to be talking about. And I thank you for taking the time to help us, quite frankly, get the word out to the American public, but also to the counterfeiters that we’re serious about this.
Thank you all very, very much.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We’ll have plenty of time to talk about Afghanistan. This is about intellectual property.
Thank you all very much.