Intellectual property enforcement is a “high priority” for the Trump administration, especially in trade negotiations, a White House official told Senate lawmakers at a Feb. 26 hearing.
“Countries and foreign entities should not be allowed to profit from theft or misappropriation of American IP, from actions including trade secret theft, IP infringement, piracy, forced technology transfer and localization requirements,” IP enforcement coordinator Vishal Amin said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s intellectual property subcommittee.
The hearing, which focused on the White House’s 2019 Annual Intellectual Property Report to Congress, was the subcommittee’s first since it was reinstated in early February to address intellectual property issues facing U.S. innovators.
The White House report focused on cybercrime and piracy of copyrighted materials, imports of patent-infringing products, and economic espionage. It said the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement had the most comprehensive IP standards of any U.S. free trade agreement.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who chairs the subcommittee, pointed to the 10-year protection for undisclosed test data on biologics negotiated under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada deal. He noted that U.S. law grants a 12-year exclusivity window for biologics and asked Amin whether it’s crucial that timelines in global trade agreements are in line with U.S. requirements.
“It’s incredibly important to ensure that when we engage in these trade negotiations that we are applying U.S. standards and U.S. law to make sure we are getting the best deal possible,” Amin said.
China’s Counterfeit Goods
The White House report highlighted the administration’s efforts to fight a flood of counterfeit goods entering the U.S. from China. China accounts for 87 percent of seized counterfeit goods making their way into the U.S, the report said.
Sen Chris Coons (D-Del.), the subcommittee’s ranking member, expressed concern over state-sponsored trade secrets theft, cyberpiracy and counterfeit goods, which can include drugs, aircraft parts and auto parts threatening human safety.
“We literally lose hundreds of billions of dollars every year as countries all around the world, but recently, principally China, have brazenly stolen the fruits of our ingenuity,” Coons said.
Agencies, including U.S Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Homeland Security’s IP center, and the FBI are keeping counterfeit goods in check, Amin said.
Coons asked Amin what further action can be taken to block the influx of China’s fake goods and cut ties to organized crime and transnational groups engaged in counterfeiting.
“Our prosecutors are trying to think creatively, in terms of investigating and prosecuting folks that are engaging in not only IP crimes but other crimes associated as well,” Amin said, referring to tax evasion and other illegal activities.
Amin in May last year held a roundtable to address the growing use of illicit streaming devices that let users illegally access and stream online content.
Apps from such illegal streaming boxes being loaded on Smart TV’s and other devices could be a future risk, Amin said at the hearing.
Coons asked Amin what for steps the administration plans to take to fight on rampant online piracy.
“We’re trying to figure out what can be done working with technology companies, working with content holders to think about what are some ways we can address this issue,” Amin said.
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(Updated with additional reporting throughout)