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Hearing of Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, & Intellectual Property of the House Judiciary Committee - International Piracy:Intellectual Property


Location: Washington, DC

Hearing of Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, & Intellectual Property of the House Judiciary Committee - International Piracy:Intellectual Property


REP. LAMAR SEELIGSON SMITH (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You mentioned Mr. Conyers a while ago. Like Mr. Conyers, I'm a member of the Antitrust Task Force which also happens to be meeting right now. So I suspect that he and I will be shuffling back and forth or maybe even substituting through each other as the morning goes on.

But I do want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Ranking Member Coble for convening this very important oversight hearing. As has already been mentioned, we've had three subcommittee hearings on the subject already, which is clearly an indication of how important this subcommittee thinks the subject is, and it's nice to have this as a bipartisan subject of interest as well.

At the outset of the first hearing, I noted whenever our purposes is to begin an examination of the role of intellectual property rights and promoting international respect for the rule of law, in whatever form it takes, the theft of intellectual property inflicts substantial economic harm on our country, our entrepreneurs, our innovators, and ultimately on American consumers.

I don't quote myself very often, but I thought that was a particularly good statement from a couple of years ago.


REP. SMITH: The potential harm to consumers that results from the rampant production and distribution of illegal goods is of course not limited to purely economic harm. Recently, Chinese manufactured toothpaste was recalled because it contained a chemical used in antifreeze.

And Connor O'Keeffe, a 7-year-old British boy, tragically died after reportedly being electrocuted by a counterfeit Nintendo Game Boy charger. These cases illustrate the danger posed by the failure to stop the manufacture and distribution of unsafe and counterfeit goods.

The enormous scope of today's counterfeiting activity and the unprecedented ability of pirates to distribute their illegal wares quickly and on a global scale, pose new challenges to policymakers around the world. And government officials and countries who profit from illegal commerce actually facilitate it; these challenges are tougher.

When U.S. Trade Representative released the annual Special 301 report earlier this year, China and Russia were once again included on the priority watch list. They came as no surprise. That designation reflects the judgment that these countries fail to provide an adequate level of intellectual property rights protection or appropriate market access to intellectual property owners.

China is poised to become the second largest trading nation in the world, and Russia is seeking to join the World Trade Organization. The U.S. and other countries that support the international rules- based trading regime must take steps to ensure that these and other countries which enjoy the benefits of free trade, also exercise responsibilities that that free trade requires.

Since our hearings in 2005, the U.S. government has stepped up its dialogue with Congress and industry stakeholders, and has sought to monitor and improve international respect for IPR. Our today's hearing topic is broader in the subject of Chinese and Russian IP theft.

I do hope our witnesses will address several specific topics. These include offering their views on Russia's implementation of the bilateral IPR agreement which was signed with the U.S. on November 19, 2006, and the current situation with respect to the two complaints the U.S. filed against China at the World Trade Organization for IP violations.

Before concluding, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to take a moment to recognize the service of Victoria Espinel, to our left, the assistant U.S. Trade Representative for intellectual property and innovation, who is one of our four witnesses. I understand that she would be leaving government service soon.

In May 2005, she served as the only common witness at our two back-to-back hearings on IP theft. She has brought in unparalleled dedication and commitment to her duties at USTR, and in doing so she has brought credit and credibility to our international efforts to improve respect for intellectual property rights. And we thank you for your efforts and appreciate your being here perhaps to testify for the last time.

Mr. Chairman, with that I yield back.


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