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Intellectual Property Rights
08/23/2012

ICE, industry partner to combat brand theft

CLEVELAND — Brand holders and intellectual property rights experts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) led an all-day symposium Thursday aimed at combatting brand theft and merchandise counterfeiting.

The one-day event hosted by ICE's National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) was held at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation's police academy in Richfield.

"Events like these are a key element in the overall strategy to protect American brands and jobs," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Michigan and Ohio. "Educating the public and industry is an important force multiplier in the effort to fight intellectual property rights theft."

The event included presentations from Amber Lilly, Deere and Company, maker of John Deere-branded products; Underwriter Laboratories; and other brand holders.

The symposium centered on actions taken by both the U.S. government and those in the IP industry to combat counterfeit merchandise and intellectual property rights violations. Break-out sessions discussed current trends in counterfeiting, emerging threats, as well as detection methods and best practices in enforcement.

HSI special agents also cited case examples that linked IP theft with other criminal activity. Brand protection officers from several corporations provided information on threat detection and other investigative techniques.

A key message stressed at the event was that counterfeiting and brand theft can result in significant criminal and civil penalties.

Conspiracy to traffic counterfeit goods carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss resulting from the conspiracy. The maximum penalty for each count of trafficking in counterfeit goods is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $2 million fine. Counterfeit goods are also subject to seizure and destruction and proceeds derived from such criminal activity are subject to forfeiture.

The IPR Center is a major player in the fight against criminal counterfeiting (piracy). In May, the center rolled out a new anti-piracy warning that will be featured in forthcoming DVDs and Blue Ray releases, replacing the former warning.

As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and American warfighters.

ICE is the federal government's lead agency investigating intellectual property theft. The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition estimates that counterfeiting costs U.S. businesses between $200 and $500 billion each year and more than 750,000 American jobs.

To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.