There is no denying the intellectual property (IP) of U.S. companies is flying out of the country. It doesn’t matter the sector; if your IP is of use to another, there is a likelihood that someone somewhere is targeting it. Recognizing this is a problem to the economic livelihood of the economy, the U.S. government has stepped up its game to protect the prosecution of those who steal or infringe upon trade secrets on a global basis.
To that end, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has teamed with the Department of State (DoS) and deployed five specialized prosecutors abroad, tasked with providing training and technical assistance to foreign law enforcement entities. The impetus for the move lays within the multibillion-dollar criminal expropriation of technologies and trade secrets of U.S. companies.
The DoS Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the DoJ Criminal Division will place their Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordinators (IPLECs) in a variety of regions around the world. The IPLEC program has deployed to Abuja, Nigeria; Bucharest, Romania; São Paulo, Brazil; Bangkok, Thailand; and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), IPLEC prosecutors.
Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Richard Glenn said, “Combating intellectual property theft requires unprecedented real-time international cooperation. The IPLEC Network is designed to meet this challenge. The network will:
- Assess the capacity of law enforcement authorities throughout the region to enforce intellectual property rights;
- Mentor and deliver training to investigators and prosecutors, designed to enhance the capacity of foreign justice sector personnel to enforce IPR;
- Assist in developing or strengthening institutions dedicated to enforcing IPR;
- Monitor regional trends in IPR protection and computer crimes; and
- Provide expert assistance in support of the United States’ IPR policies and initiatives in the region.”
The purpose of the training is to assist foreign partners with prosecution of counterfeiters and other unlawful activities related to the trade secrets of their own entrepreneurs, as well as those of others. Within the DoJ’s Criminal Division is the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), which shoulders the responsibility for developing “national strategies in combating computer and intellectual property crimes worldwide.” For example, its guidance to prosecutors on the challenges cloud data presents was characterized as pragmatic, noting government requests for data directly from a cloud service provider typically take longer and are overly broad.
Also, within the DoJ is the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance (OPDAT). The OPDAT, with DoS funding, sent its first “Resident Legal Advisor” abroad in 1991 as a direct result of the Cold War’s ending and the need to reform and development of new Criminal Code Procedures. The intent of the OPDAT is to staff its field teams with experience attorneys from within a cadre of Assistant U.S. Attorneys (there are approximately 5,500 within the DoJ).
The DoJ’s deployed Regional IPLEC coordinators have a variety of focus areas. For example, the attorney assigned as the IPLEC for South America is located in Sao Paulo, where the IPLEC “provides intellectual property rights and cybercrime prosecutorial and judicial training and technical assistance to foreign law enforcement partners across the region, with the goal of increasing the prosecution of intellectual property rights violations and the seizure of counterfeit goods.” Meanwhile, the Regional IPLEC coordinator for Asia, deployed in Hong Kong, works across Asia providing five key services:
- Assessing the capacity of law enforcement authorities throughout the region to enforce intellectual property rights;
- Seveloping and delivering training and other capacity building formats designed to enhance the capacity of justice sector personnel to enforce intellectual property rights;
- Assisting in developing or strengthening institutions dedicated to enforcing intellectual property rights;
- Monitoring regional trends in intellectual property protection and computer crimes; and
- Providing expert assistance in support of U.S. government IP and computer crime policies and initiatives in the region.
With these deployments, training programs and prosecutorial assistance, the DoJ and DoS are attempting to raise the tide in the global effort to prosecute IP theft. Such will not only assist U.S. companies in the protection of their trade secrets, it may well assist all companies, regardless of where they are geographically.