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Public Statements

Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


ENFORCEMENT OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS ACT OF 2008 -- (Senate - September 26, 2008)

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Mr. COBURN. I, too, believe that intellectual property is important to our country, businesses and individual rights holders. Illegal importation of counterfeit goods, such as pharmaceuticals, also threatens the health and safety of U.S. citizens. It is necessary for the Federal Government to protect and enforce intellectual property rights domestically and internationally. I believe we are on the way to achieving this goal with S. 3325, but we have to ensure that the agencies this bill tasks with enforcement of intellectual property rights are held responsible. All of us, including those in the intellectual property community, would have to agree that enforcement of intellectual property rights, even with passage of S. 3325, will only become a priority of the Federal Government if agencies, such as the Justice Department and FBI, are truly held accountable for achieving the goal of increased enforcement.

Mr. LEAHY. I am committed to vigorous oversight of the Justice Department in all its functions, and as the champion of S. 3325, I am especially interested in ensuring that these programs are effectively and efficiently managed. My interest does not end with the enactment of this bill; in fact, this is just the beginning. I am committing myself and the Judiciary Committee to oversight of these programs; soon after the filing date of the reports required of the Justice Department and the FBI, we will hold hearings to ensure that the information we need to evaluate these programs and the use of the funds that have been appropriated.

Mr. COBURN. I am glad that the Senator from Vermont is making this commitment and am relying on his assurance of oversight of these programs so that our government is held responsible and informed decisions are made on how to responsibly allocate our scarce Federal dollars. Although the criteria we established in this legislation are necessary, they will neither have an effect on how the Justice Department and FBI prioritize and use the funds authorized under this bill, nor ensure grantees appropriately use Federal grant dollars, unless we make certain these agencies rigorously follow the standards we set forth in this legislation. If the Justice Department and FBI continue to receive Federal funding year after year without Congress questioning the contents of their required reports or grantees' use of funds, all of the efforts of those supporting this bill will be for naught, and we will not have succeeded in making IP enforcement a priority for this country.

I thank the Senator from Vermont and the Senator from Pennsylvania for their work on this bill. I recognize we have all made compromises along the way to ensure we pass the most effective enforcement legislation possible, while still maintaining our desire to hold Federal agencies, which spend taxpayer dollars, accountable for their actions so that this country's intellectual property rights holders are protected from counterfeiting and piracy.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I rise today to comment on the impending passage of S. 3325, the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008/Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008.

When I first reviewed the bill, I was concerned that section 301's creation of the intellectual property enforcement coordinator, or IPEC, a presidentially appointed White House officer, might allow political interference with the Justice Department's copyright investigation and enforcement decisions. I am now persuaded, however, that the bill's creation of this new office does not, and was not intended to, influence the exercise of prosecutorial and law enforcement decisionmaking by the Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies. Criminal law enforcement is a critical component of Federal enforcement of intellectual property rights, and the bill includes language that prevents the IPEC from exercising any control over criminal investigations and prosecutions. These restrictions are consistent with the bill's language, as well as with current Department of Justice and White House policies that guard against improper contacts between the White House and the Department of Justice on prosecutions and investigations.

For example, the bill contains several important limitations on the authority of the IPEC. Section 301(b)(2) of the bill provides that the IPEC ``may not control or direct any law enforcement agency, including the Department of Justice, in the exercise of its investigative or prosecutorial authority.'' Section 305(b) further provides that ``nothing in this title shall alter the authority of any department or agency of the United States (including any independent agency) that relates to--(1) the investigation and prosecution of violations of laws that protect intellectual property rights; (2) the administrative enforcement, at the borders of the United States, of laws that protect intellectual property rights.'' Section 306(c) also provides that ``Nothing in this title--(1) shall derogate from the powers, duties, and functions of any of the agencies, departments, or other entities listed or included under section 301(b)(3)(A); and (2) shall be construed to transfer authority regarding the control, use, or allocation of law enforcement resources, or the initiation of prosecution of individuals cases or types of case, from the responsible law enforcement department or agency.''

The foregoing provisions of the bill make clear that the IPEC does not, and was not intended to, have the authority to influence or attempt to influence the law enforcement and prosecutorial decisionmaking of the Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners. Rather, the IPEC's role is limited to general coordination, as defined in the statute, that does not interfere with, or derogate from, the existing prosecutorial and law enforcement authority and responsibilities of the Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies.

With this understanding in mind, I interpose no objection to the Senate's adoption of this bill and will lend my support to its passage.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President I support the overall goals of S. 3325, the PRO-IP Act, and believe that our country's intellectual property rights should be protected at home and abroad. However, I believe that Congress should make both realistic and fiscally responsible commitments in the legislation it passes.

Intellectual property is important to our country, businesses, and individual rights holders. Illegal importation of counterfeit goods, such as pharmaceuticals, also threatens the health and safety of U.S. citizens. It is necessary for the Federal Government to protect and enforce intellectual property rights domestically and internationally.

I believe we are on the way to achieving this goal with this legislation, but we have to ensure that the agencies this bill tasks with enforcement of intellectual property rights are held responsible. All of us, including the members of the intellectual property community, would have to agree that enforcement of intellectual property rights, even with passage of this legislation, will only become a priority of the Federal Government if agencies, such as the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation, are truly held responsible for achieving the goal of increased enforcement.

I believe that the only way to ensure these agencies actually answer for their actions, and make intellectual property enforcement a priority, is through effective oversight by this Body. We have included in this bill two reporting requirements for the Justice Department and FBI that will make certain we know: (1) exactly what the agencies were doing before this bill was enacted to enforce intellectual property laws so that we may establish a performance baseline, and (2) what the agencies will be doing in the future as a result of this bill. We have also included other standards for State and local law enforcement agencies that will be receiving grants from the Justice Department, so that the grantees also have standards to meet in order to receive Federal funds.

These reports and standards, however, will neither have an effect on how these agencies prioritize and use the funds authorized under this bill, nor ensure grantees appropriately use Federal funds unless we make certain the criteria we set forth in this bill are met. If the Justice Department and FBI continue to receive funding year after year under this legislation without Congress questioning the contents of the reports they are required to submit, all of the efforts of those supporting this bill will be for naught, and we will not have succeeded in making intellectual property enforcement a priority for this country.

To be clear, I would prefer actual language in this bill stating that, if the Justice Department and FBI fail to submit their reports on time, any authorizations under title IV of this bill would be suspended until those reports are submitted. However, even though this language was not accepted, the Senator from Vermont has assured me that the Judiciary Committee will hold oversight hearings early each year so we may thoroughly question the contents of the reports required to be submitted by the Justice Department and FBI under title IV. It is my hope that the outcome of any oversight hearings in the Judiciary Committee related to the content of this bill will be effectively communicated to the Appropriations Committee so that the members of that committee will have detailed information to establish whether these agencies have complied with the requirements of S. 3325, and enable them to make informed decision on how to responsibly allocate our scarce Federal dollars.

I thank the Senator from Vermont and the Senator from Pennsylvania for their work on this bill. I recognize that we have all made compromises along the way to ensure we pass the most effective enforcement legislation possible, while still maintaining our desire to hold Federal agencies, which spend taxpayer dollars, accountable for their actions so that this country's intellectual property rights holders are protected from counterfeiting and piracy.

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