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Guarding Against Fakes

Federal government opens a center to protect and enforce intellectual property rights

by Glenn Hess
July 28, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 30

In a bid to combat the growing threat that product counterfeiting poses to U.S. industry and the health and safety of consumers, the federal government has opened a new high-tech intellectual property coordination center.

The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), in Arlington, Va., will house IP enforcement branches from several U.S. agencies, including Immigration & Customs Enforcement, the FBI, and FDA.

"This center will fuse federal resources and promote partnerships with industry in new and powerful ways to protect American business and consumers from falling victim to dangerous and illicit goods," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a statement.

Among the most commonly counterfeited products are prescription drugs, medical devices, and consumer goods such as toothpaste and other personal hygiene products. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says counterfeiting costs the economy $250 billion annually.

"If utilized as it has been designed, the IPR Center can be an important tool in the fight to protect IP," says Caroline Joiner, vice president of the chamber's Global Intellectual Property Center. "But at the present moment," she adds, "the federal government's overall IP strategy lacks the staff, resources, and high-level coordination needed to successfully protect IP."

Joiner says her organization is "working in the Senate to pass legislation that would add needed law enforcement and prosecutorial resources, improve coordination, and make IP protection the high-level priority that it deserves to be."


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