By  on October 3, 2006

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is wielding an array of weapons in its effort to crack down on fakes, from including intellectual property provisions in trade agreements to seizing goods at the border.

But a trio of Cabinet-level officials speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Countering Global Counterfeiting and Piracy” conference here last week said that despite these measures, intellectual property protection will continue to be a pervasive problem as the global market expands.

Fake goods cost U.S. companies between $200 billion and $250 billion annually and are responsible for the loss of more than 750,000 jobs, according to government estimates. Fashion firms, especially those in the luxury sector where brand name is paramount, have long grappled with the illicit competition.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales addressed the conference, which ran Sept. 28-29, stressing the need for vigilance as the U.S. economy increasingly shifts towards a dependence on innovation and the creation of new technology.

“We’re going to make this a priority for many years to come,” said Gutierrez. “Globalization just makes the challenge all the more important for our companies. In many ways, ironically, globalization actually facilitates counterfeiting.”

As technological advancements and international commerce knit countries closer together, it has become easier to steal other people’s ideas.

“Innovation is important today to our economy. It’s going to be more important in the future so intellectual property will be more important as we go forward,” said Gutierrez. “We don’t treat intellectual property with the rigor that it should have. This is the same as counterfeiting money and it should be treated as such.”

The Commerce Department is expanding its intellectual property attaché program, devoting more people and resources to focus on the issue in China, Brazil, Russia, India and elsewhere. Last year, Chris Israel was named the first U.S. coordinator for international intellectual property enforcement to help make sure the various parts of the administration are on the same page.

When other countries prove to be ineffective at protecting intellectual property rights, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office bears part of the responsibility for putting them on track.

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