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Intellectual Property Rights


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The HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) stands at the forefront of America's response to intellectual property theft and its enforcement of international trade laws. Its efforts have a direct impact on the nation's health and safety, economy and warfighters.

The IPR Center brings together 23 key federal and international agencies in a task force setting using a three-pronged approach to combat intellectual property and commercial fraud crimes: interdiction, investigation, and outreach. This enables the IPR Center to leverage the resources, skills and authorities of each partner.

The IPR Center is led by an HSI director, along with deputy directors from HSI, the Federal Bureau Investigation and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Visit the IPR Center Website for more information.

Intellectual Property Unit

The Intellectual Property Unit is comprised of two sections: the Intellectual Property Section and the Intelligence Section. Intellectual Property Section provides programmatic oversight and guidance for the intellectual property program. This Section supports the field offices, which conduct criminal investigations with the purpose of disrupting and dismantling the criminal organizations that commit intellectual property theft. The Unit also coordinates with a broad range of government agencies, businesses and other stakeholders impacted by the theft of intellectual property. Additionally, this Section recommends effective changes to policies and laws that govern this issue.

In addition to proactively developing leads, the Intelligence Section receives, vets, and adds value to investigative leads received from industry, law enforcement and the public. This section also promotes the sharing of information and facilitates the de-confliction of investigative information among the IPR Center’s 23 partner agencies. So as to maximize effort, the Intelligence Section also sends information to industry partners for civil and administrative action.

The Intellectual Property Unit’s objectives are: 1) Ensure public safety and national security by preventing dangerous and harmful goods from entering the stream of commerce; 2) Promote the integrity of the trade process; and 3) Use resources in an efficient and intelligent manner. The Intellectual Property Unit achieves these objectives through productive partnerships with public and private sectors, and the management of numerous initiatives and interdiction efforts that are designed to combat the infiltration of counterfeits that pose a risk to the health and safety of the American public, or could potentially harm the economy of this country. A brief synopsis of these initiatives is as follows:

Operation Apothecary targets the smuggling, illegal importation and/or sale of unapproved, counterfeit or adulterated pharmaceuticals in the United States.

Operation Chain Reaction targets counterfeit goods entering the supply chains of the Department of Defense (DOD) and U.S. Government agencies. These counterfeits pose a health and safety risk because they can potentially delay DOD missions, affect the reliability of weapon systems, imperil the safety of service members, and endanger the integrity of sensitive data and secure networks.

Operation Engine Newity focuses on securing the supply chains of automotive and other heavy industry from counterfeit components. The proliferation of counterfeit parts, to include airbags, bearings, brake pads, accelerator arms, and windshields, poses a significant health and safety threat to end users. It also impacts the economic growth of businesses and impacts consumers through lost revenue, downtime, and replacement costs. Operation Engine Newity collaborates with industry through the Automotive Anti-Counterfeit Council (A2C2).

Operation In Our Sites (IOS) addresses illicit cyber commerce and the sale of counterfeit products through infringing Internet websites. IOS is focused on the development of long-term investigations that identify targets, assets, and financial schemes used in operating these websites.

Operation Plastic Beauty addresses the illegal production, illegal importation, and/or sale of counterfeit personal healthcare and beauty products, such as cosmetics or perfumes.

Operation Surge Protector targets the sale and trafficking of counterfeit consumer electronics and technology products, such as headphones, smartphones, power adaptors, batteries and charging cords.

Operation Team Player targets the sale and trafficking of counterfeit sports merchandise, apparel, and tickets. Through Team Player, the IPR Center coordinates with Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Basketball Association, and the National Football League.

HSI Commercial Fraud Unit

Trade enforcement protects our nation's economy from trade practices, commercial enterprises and imports that pose a threat to the safety of American consumers and the environment.

The HSI Commercial Fraud Unit oversees HSI’s trade programs that investigate a variety of trade fraud schemes. These include environmental crimes, wildlife trafficking, tobacco and textile smuggling, forced child and prison labor, antidumping and countervailing duty evasion and violations of free-trade agreements.

The IPR Center also promotes a number of educational and training programs to strengthen enforcement efforts in the field:

Project Trade Watch raises awareness about schemes used to evade trade regulations, gain unfair competitive advantages or defraud the U.S. government.

Textile Production Verification Teams verify the manufacturing ability of foreign textile factories. The teams enable HSI and CBP to work with international governments to identify factories that are not in compliance with existing trade agreements and programs designed to develop international economies.

Forced Labor Program

HSI’s Forced Labor Program coordinates investigations into allegations of forced labor (to include forced child labor) relating either to the manufacturing or production of goods overseas that are exported to the United States, or, labor here in the United States that results from coercion, debt bondage/indenturedlabor, or other non-voluntary means of forcing an individual to provide work or a service. Read the fact sheet.

Outreach and Training

The IPR Center engages in partnerships with the private sector to combat IP theft through its Operation Joint Venture (OJV) initiative. This IPR Center-led outreach initiative is designed to increase information sharing with public and private sectors to combat the illegal importation and distribution of counterfeit, substandard, and tainted goods. OJV targets rights holders, manufacturers, importers, customs brokers, freight forwarders, bonded facilities, carriers, and others to discuss the IPR Center’s priorities of protecting public health and safety, the economy, and securing the Government’s supply chain. Through outreach and public engagement, the IPR Center raises the public’s awareness of the dangers of trade-based violations, such as IP, while serving as a public point of contact for investigative leads. The IPR Center’s target audience includes a broad spectrum of industries and government agencies to include, but not limited to: pharmaceutical, entertainment, wearing apparel, sports, microelectronic and automobile manufacturers, customs bonded entities, importers, and law enforcement officials.

The section trains law enforcement partners to combat intellectual property theft and works closely with partner agencies and attaché networks to deliver training and support through organizations like the World Customs Organization and INTERPOL. Additionally, the center hosts visits by international law enforcement and customs officers through the Department of State's International Visitor Program.

Intellectual Property and Trade Enforcement Investigation Course is offered to provide training to HSI and CBP personnel on IPR and trade fraud detection and investigations. The class, which is comprised of HSI and CBP includes exercises and discussions that draw upon the experience of all participants.

IPR Center Newsletter a monthly publication to keep stakeholders up-to-date on the most significant IPR Center enforcement efforts and outreach activities

Victim Impact Stories include a catalog of real-life examples used to educate the private sector and public on the health and safety risks and impacts of the use of counterfeits.

Report IP Theft Button, which has been placed on many private sector websites, is another on-going initiative with the private sector in the fight against IP theft and trade fraud. The Button provides another tool for referrals of information between the private sector and law enforcement.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 07/31/2019