In testimony at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on intellectual property enforcement Wednesday, Kevin O’Connor, chairman of the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, updated committee members on the task force’s efforts to fight counterfeit crimes.

O’Connor said the task force is stepping up intellectual property crime enforcement, coordinating with foreign law enforcement agencies and developing laws aimed at ensuring “the continued protection of intellectual property rights from the increasing theft and exploitation of those rights.”

He also said since the task force was formed in 2004, the agency has had significant successes.

“The core of the department’s IP enforcement program are criminal prosecutions, and we have worked hard to increase both the quality and the number of intellectual property prosecutions nationwide,” O’Connor said. “The department filed 217 intellectual property cases in fiscal year 2007, representing a 7 percent increase over cases reported in the prior year, and a 33 percent increase over cases reported in 2005. Also in fiscal 2007, 287 defendants were convicted and sentenced on intellectual property charges, representing a 35 percent increase over 2006 and a 92 percent increase over 2005.”

O’Connor said the increase in prosecutions in fiscal 2007 “was not an aberration, but rather reflects a continuing upward trend.”

The nature of the prosecutions include charges against apparel, DVD, drug and software technology counterfeiters.

“While the department is working aggressively to fight intellectual property crime both here and abroad, criminals are often a step ahead of law enforcement,” O’Connor said. “Our criminal laws must be kept updated in order to meet the global challenges of intellectual property crime. To offset the lucrative nature of piracy and counterfeiting, criminal penalties must provide real deterrence. Criminals must be divested of their illicit profits and victims deserve strong restitution laws to help make them whole. In addition, prosecutors need the necessary tools to fight increasingly sophisticated and organized criminal networks, many of which are turning to advanced communications technologies to hide their tracks from law enforcement.”

This story first appeared in the November 8, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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