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US, EU Highlight Chinese IP Concerns

by Glen Shapiro,, New York

23 July 2010

A senior US Congressman has said that legislation is being developed that would give the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) department more powers to tackle online piracy and counterfeit goods, particularly those originating from China.

At a hearing held by the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Howard Berman, committee chair, said he was keen to expand a program that allows the ICE department to seize the domain names of websites that were unlawfully offering first-run movies.

"(Committee ranking member) Senator Leahy and I are exploring legislative approaches to expand on the ICE program, and would like to learn from your experiences before introducing legislation later this month," Berman told a panel of witnesses due to testify before the committee.

President Obama's Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel told the hearing that the scale and scope of China's manufacturing, industrial policies and export markets made China "particularly troubling" for the US government in terms of IP enforcement.

"China will be a significant focus of our enforcement efforts as we address intellectual property infringement abroad," she said. "Whether it’s coordinating our law enforcement personnel overseas, developing a strategy to go after foreign-based websites, or using trade policy tools to address the competitive disadvantages that we face, China will be a priority."

Berman said that the problem of "lackluster foreign enforcement" in the area of IP was nothing new however, and noted that the US Trade Representative's Special 301 report on the state of IP enforcement around world also listed India, Russia and even Canada on its priority watch list.

"While our attention was previously focused on a relatively small number of countries we have now seen an explosion of piracy and counterfeiting in many nations," he said. "Today, piracy and counterfeiting has become so effortless, and enforcement resources spread so thin, that the legitimate marketplace for music and movies is disappearing in countries such as Spain."

Aspects of China's IP policies also drew criticism from the European Union Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht, in a speech at Shanghai's World Expo on Thursday (July 22), in particular, its 'indigenous innovation' policy "because it forces European companies to register as a Chinese company to get access to private procurement markets."

"The core of our economy is intellectual property," he said. "That's why it's important that we get adequate protection."

TAGS: Russia | India | law | intellectual property | China | enforcement | manufacturing | legislation | Canada | Spain | trade

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