Congress Gets Tough On Intellectual Property | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: September 30, 2008

Congress Gets Tough On Intellectual Property

Just-passed bill boosts federal resources to combat counterfeiting and piracy
Department: Government & Policy

Lawmakers have approved sweeping legislation that is designed to bolster the federal government's ability to protect patents, trademarks, and other intellectual property (IP). The bipartisan legislation, the Prioritizing Resources & Organization for Intellectual Property Act (S. 3325), passed the Senate by unanimous consent on Sept. 26 and cleared the House by a vote of 381-41 two days later.

The bill significantly toughens civil and criminal laws against counterfeiting and piracy, provides law enforcement agencies with increased funding for investigations and prosecutions, and creates a new White House office of IP enforcement coordinator.

"IP makes up some of the most valuable and most vulnerable property we have," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement. "We need to do more to protect it from theft and abuse if we hope to continue being a world leader in innovation."

The bill is strongly supported by pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers, and others in the business community. "This is a win for both parties and, more important, for America's innovators, workers whose jobs rely on IP, and consumers who depend on safe and effective products," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas J. Donohue says.

It's unclear whether President George W. Bush will sign the legislation into law because the Administration opposes the provision that creates a new Cabinet-level post for IP coordination. According to the bill, the IP coordinator will be chair of an interagency committee tasked with devising a worldwide strategic plan to combat piracy and counterfeiting. However, in a joint letter sent to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 23, the Justice and Commerce Departments says the establishment of an IP coordinator within the Executive Office of the President (EOP) is "objectionable" on constitutional grounds as a violation of separation of powers.

"While the Administration has been a longtime supporter of strong inter-agency coordination...the statutory creation of an EOP coordinator with the duties described in the bill constitutes a legislative intrusion into the internal structure and composition of the President's Administration," the letter states.

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