US Aims To Boost Its Efforts Against Overseas Infringers

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US President Barack Obama wants the country’s Justice Department to get by with a bit less money next fiscal year – but not when it comes to prosecuting overseas infringers of American IP rights.

The President’s proposed budget for fiscal 2013 would decrease the Justice Department’s overall funding by a modest 0.4 percent. However, the budget would boost the money spent on transnational enforcement of intellectual property law by 14 percent (from US$35 million in FY2012 to US$40 million in FY2013). The staff devoted to criminally prosecuting infringers would increase by 41 percent (from 20 individuals to 34). This increase, according to the Justice Department, “will allow the Department to quickly address IP threats when they are first noticed and stop them abroad more readily.”

The budget request indicates President Obama wants to ratchet up the US government’s recent efforts against activities outside American borders that hurt owners of US copyrights and trademarks.

Since its start less than two years ago, the US government’s “In Our Sites” program has seized the domain names of over 350 websites that allegedly distributed or sold products that infringed US copyrights or trademarks. Many of those supposedly infringing sites were operated outside the US.

In addition, the US Justice Department recently spearheaded an international effort that shut down the popular web site Megaupload, which was owned by a Hong Kong company. The US charged the company and its top seven executives (none of whom was a US citizen or resident) with running an international organised criminal enterprise that committed massive worldwide online piracy of US copyrighted movies, TV shows, music and software.

Steven Seidenberg is a freelance reporter and attorney who has been covering intellectual property developments in the US for more than 15 years. He is based in the greater New York City area and may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

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