|2:09 PM EDT||
John Conyers Jr., D-MI 14th
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and incorporate extraneous material on the bill under consideration.
|2:09 PM EDT||
John Conyers Jr., D-MI 14th
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, today we move to dramatically step up our Nation's intellectual property laws and enforcement efforts. With so much unpleasant economic news in the headlines, the measure before us, H.R. 4279, puts resources towards aiding a sector of the economy that employs an estimated 18 million workers. That is 13 percent of our labor force and accounts for half of all of the United States exports driving 40 percent of the country's growth.
As a result of less-than-effective enforcement, however, counterfeiting and piracy cost the United States' economy somewhere in the neighborhood of $250 billion a year and creates the loss of about 750,000 American jobs.
And so H.R. 4279 will do these important things: It will prioritize intellectual property protection to the highest level of our government by creating an office in the White House that will be responsible for coordinating the intellectual property efforts of eight diverse agencies and producing a national Joint Strategic Plan for IP enforcement. It will elevate IP enforcement within the Department of Justice and provide more resources for investigating and prosecuting IP crimes.
It will make changes to both civil and criminal IP laws to enhance the ability of intellectual property owners to effectively protect their rights, and it will increase penalties for IP violations that endanger public health and safety.
Throughout the process of developing this bill, we heard many expressions of support as well as a number of expressions of concern. But we've been able to work out these issues on a bipartisan basis at every step of the process.
I congratulate the distinguished members of the Judiciary Committee, both Republicans and Democrats, for their cooperation in this process. And so now as a result, the measure is supported by the Consumer Electronics Association, the Digital Media Association, the Net Coalition, the Internet Commerce Coalition, the Coalition for Consumers' Picture Rights, the Printing Industries Association and more.
That is in addition to the support we've already had from the Teamsters, the Directors Guild of America, SEIU, AFTRA, Unite Here, AFM, OPEIU, the Coalition Against Counterfeiting in Piracy, the Motor Equipment Manufacturing Association, the Motion Picture Association of America, PHARMA, and NBC Universal.
Intellectual property protection is among the key issues that will determine American competitiveness in the 21st century. The ability to create, innovate, and generate the best artistic, technological, and knowledge-based intellectual property is the formula for continued growth in the global economy and is fundamental to the promotion of human progress.
This committee of ours, the Judiciary Committee, has given these items involved in the measure extensive consideration, lots of compromise back and forth, and we feel that this bill will make important contributions to the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. [Page: H3075]
It was reported by voice with strong bipartisan statements of support, and I urge my colleagues to vote for its passage.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
|2:14 PM EDT||
Lamar S. Smith, R-TX 21st
Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, at the outset I want to recognize Chairman Conyers, Subcommittee Chairman Berman and Ranking Member Howard Coble of the subcommittee, each of whom I have enjoyed working with in developing and advancing this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, at a time when many Americans are facing a slowing economy and increasing costs of food and fuel, it is imperative that Congress put aside any differences we may have and work together to promote the interests of U.S. entrepreneurs and industry.
Over the past 25 years, perhaps no group of industries has contributed more to the tremendous and sustained growth in our economy than those who rely on strong patent, trademark and copyright protections.
American intellectual property industries, including entertainment, high-tech and pharmaceutical industries, account for over half of all U.S. exports, represent 40 percent of the country's economic growth and employ 18 million American workers.
American technology, entertainment and productivity-based enterprises serve as the cornerstone of our economic and export strength.
Because of the important role IP industries play in our economy, we cannot take these innovations, or their creativity and investment required to bring them to life, for granted.
Unfortunately, the tremendous success of these innovators, creators and rights-holders has made them prime targets for thieves who seek out items protected by patent, copyright, trademark or trade secret designation. These thieves not only steal the creations of others, but also reap the monetary benefits by reproducing and distributing the products themselves.
And the losses attributed to counterfeiting and piracy affect more than the inventor. According to the U.S. Government, American businesses lose approximately $250 billion each year to pirated and counterfeited goods.
The theft of intellectual property has also cost nearly 750,000 Americans their jobs. Given the current state of the economy, preventing these crimes and enforcing IP laws must be a top priority for the Federal Government.
H.R. 4279, the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008, which is also known as PRO-IP, is a measure designed to respond directly to these challenges.
Specifically, the bill strengthens our laws against counterfeiting and piracy; provides new resources to key agencies involved in the enforcement of IP rights; and mandates a new and unprecedented level of coordination and leadership on IP enforcement issues from the White House.
Mr. Speaker, the incentive to innovate and the ability to profit from the creation of new intellectual property cannot be sustained without enforcing the rights that protect the ownership of such valuable, intangible property.
And while our government agencies are doing more today to protect intellectual property than ever before, the reality is that we must do much more. We must make it increasingly difficult, and costly, for counterfeiters and traffickers, some of whom are connected to organized crime, to steal and profit from American innovations.
Because intellectual property is such an important asset for both the inventor and the economy as a whole, Congress has a responsibility to ensure that IP enforcement is made a permanent priority of every administration.
By supporting the PRO-IP bill, the House will send a clear message that there is a bipartisan commitment to ensure the next President and succeeding administrations have the resources, organizations and strategies required to protect our vital national and economic interests.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this bill, H.R. 4279.
I reserve the balance of my time.
|2:18 PM EDT||
John Conyers Jr., D-MI 14th
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I rise now to yield to my dear friend and chairman of the Intellectual Property Subcommittee who's worked on this subject matter for so many years. Howard Berman has been a bellwether in bringing together the groups, and I'm happy to yield him as much time as he may consume.
|2:18 PM EDT||
Howard L. Berman, D-CA 28th
Mr. BERMAN. Thank you, Chairman Conyers, for those kind words.
I rise today in support of H.R. 4279. American inventors, artists and businesses rely on intellectual property rights to protect the value of their creative works. These works, unfortunately, are being ripped off around the world. The rampant counterfeiting and piracy of U.S. products is having a devastating impact on our economy.
Counterfeit and pirated products may account for up to 8 percent of world trade, and a significant portion of this illicit trade are knock-offs of American products. Latest estimates indicate that U.S. businesses lose up to $250 billion a year due to intellectual property theft. This level of counterfeiting and piracy of U.S. intellectual property rights translates to job losses, lower tax receipts, and a greater trade deficit. It has also led to public health and safety threats ranging from
exploding batteries to toxic pharmaceuticals to sawdust brake pads.
The economic threat and safety problems that counterfeit and pirated products pose for U.S. businesses and consumers must be dealt with. Given the difficult economic times we find ourselves in, it is that much more important that we address these problems quickly and effectively.
I am aware of the recent efforts the administration has taken to stem the tide of counterfeit and pirated products. The Department of Homeland Security has seized record numbers of counterfeit and pirated goods coming through the border. The Department of Justice is prosecuting and convicting more intellectual property thieves. The Patent and Trademark Office has stationed representatives in foreign countries to advocate for better enforcement. However, despite these efforts, intellectual property
theft is on the rise. More must be done. H.R. 4279 is more.
The Act strengthens our civil and criminal laws in ways that attack the organizational structures intellectual property thieves are using and reduce the economic incentives that thieves have to engage in commercial scale counterfeiting and piracy. The Act devotes more resources to investigate and prosecute intellectual property crimes. The Act also provides more resources for the U.S. Government to work with other governments to improve intellectual property enforcement abroad.
And probably most importantly, H.R. 4279 provides a permanent and effective means of coordinating intellectual property enforcement activities. This includes the creation of an intellectual property enforcement representative in the Executive Office of the President and requiring that a national strategic plan to counter intellectual property theft be created, complete with clear goals and benchmarks that will facilitate accountability.
I'd like very much to thank Chairman Conyers, Ranking Member Smith, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Coble and all of their staffs, as well as mine, for the hard work they've put into crafting this bill. The hard work shows in both the scope of the reforms and in the strong support for the bill by U.S. businesses and labor groups, and Chairman Conyers outlined a number of those organizations and the broad sweep that they cover and their strong endorsement.
I'm also pleased to say that the amendments adopted in the bill before us go a long way in alleviating concerns raised over the operational independence of agencies like the USTR and the Department of Justice, without compromising the underlying reforms.
H.R. 4279 will bolster U.S. efforts to combat counterfeiting and piracy, and I urge support of the bill.
|2:22 PM EDT||
Lamar S. Smith, R-TX 21st
Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Coble), the ranking member of the Intellectual Property Subcommittee and the former chairman of the Intellectual Property Subcommittee, as much time as he may consume.
|2:22 PM EDT||
Howard Coble, R-NC 6th
Mr. COBLE. I thank the gentleman from Texas and, Mr. Speaker, at the outset I, too, want to recognize and express thanks to Judiciary Chairman [Page: H3076]
JOHN CONYERS, Ranking Member LAMAR SMITH, and Subcommittee Chairman HOWARD BERMAN for having made every effort to address all concerns raised during the development of this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 reflects a bipartisan recognition and shared commitment to the strengthening of our Nation's intellectual property laws.
A comprehensive measure, it is not confined to making marginal improvements in the available civil and criminal authorities. Instead, it incorporates bold and urgently needed provisions that will permanently elevate the importance of intellectual property, IP, enforcement in future administrations.
This is accomplished by providing focused and accountable strategic leadership in the Executive Office of the President and at key enforcement agencies.
Mr. Speaker, in considering why we should take steps to improve the enforcement of U.S. IP rights, Members should be aware that U.S. losses from global copyright piracy and counterfeiting cost our innovators and entrepreneurs from $200 to $250 billion each and every year.
The impact in America has been widespread. More than 750,000 Americans in communities across our land have lost their jobs due to counterfeiting and piracy. Counterfeit goods lack proper quality control and can be dangerous. Toothpaste, medicines, cigarettes, and fake auto parts are but a small sample of the virtually unlimited supply of goods that have been counterfeited.
The United States Chamber of Commerce has done an excellent job of documenting the extent of this problem. I encourage anyone interested in learning about these issues to visit the Chamber's Web site for additional information or to take the time to watch the documentary Illicit which was produced by National Geographic and the Chamber.
Mr. Speaker, fighting piracy and counterfeiting, as you all know, is easier said than done because most of this illicit activity occurs outside our borders. In recent years, the Federal Government has made progress in improving both our domestic and global enforcement efforts, but it is also clear that achieving success in the fight against piracy and counterfeiting requires government-wide coordination and cooperation.
In addition to authorizing the Office of the United States Intellectual Property Enforcement Representative, H.R. 4279 also raises the profile of IP enforcement within the Department of Justice through the creation of a new IP enforcement division. This is absolutely necessary in my opinion.
The bill creates an additional 10 attaches at the United States Patent and Trademark Office who will be assigned to work with foreign countries to better coordinate our international enforcement efforts.
And the bill enhances existing anti-piracy and counterfeiting criminal statutes, authorizes grants to assist local anti-piracy and counterfeiting efforts, and directs the Justice Department to refine its policies for investigating and prosecuting piracy and counterfeiting operations.
Before closing, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to note for the record three final amendments the managers agreed to incorporate into the bill. The first is designed to harmonize the cooperative provisions in title II of the bill.
The second, in section 301, places an affirmative limitation on the authority of the new IP enforcement representative that makes clear the official has no authority to control or direct law enforcement agencies in the exercise of their respective investigative or prosecutorial discretion in particular cases.
And the third, which amends section 323 of the bill, simply contains technical and conforming changes to make the text of the bill clearer.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize some of the stakeholders who have worked so diligently on this effort. Specifically, I'd like to note the efforts of the Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy, which has been so ably led by Mr. Rick Cotton; and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which, of course, is led by President Tom Donohue; and the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus, which is led by Representatives ADAM SCHIFF of California and BOB GOODLATTE of Virginia.
In closing, I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 4279, and I thank the distinguished gentleman from Texas for having yielded to me.
|2:28 PM EDT||
John Conyers Jr., D-MI 14th
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I think I have only one speaker left, but might I say a word about the distinguished ranking member, LAMAR SMITH of Texas, who's worked with us incredibly, with deliberation. He's brought parties together. There has been an enormous amount of work behind the scenes for which nobody knows how much he's done to make this possible. I thank him publicly.
I now yield the rest of our time to the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Cohen).
|2:28 PM EDT||
Steve Cohen, D-TN 9th
Mr. COHEN. I want to thank the chairman and the chairmen for the work they've done, and for the ranking member, on this bill.
I rise in support of H.R. 4279, the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008, or the PRO-IP Act.
Our Nation's intellectual property is the basis for our economic success and security. That is something that can't be undermined by cheap labor prices overseas. It's an American product. Therefore, protecting our intellectual property must be among our highest priorities.
In addition to undermining our global economic primacy, counterfeit and pirated products can threaten the health and safety of American consumers, American pet owners, steal income from legitimate businesses, deprive American workers of good jobs, and undermine the necessary incentive for innovation and creativity which has made America the great country that it is. It is for these reasons I'm an original cosponsor of the PRO-IP Act.
The PRO-IP Act will help strengthen enforcement of intellectual property rights domestically and internationally through enhanced criminal and civil penalties for intellectual property crimes, better high-level coordination among Federal Government agencies, and increased resources to domestic and foreign law enforcement authorities.
This bill, Mr. Speaker, rightfully enjoys broad support from a wide range of industries, including the entertainment, pharmaceutical, food, automobile parts and software industries. It has such diverse partners as the Chamber of Commerce and the Teamsters. When the Chamber of Commerce and the Teamsters come together it's like E.F. Hutton--we listen. We've listened well and need to pass this bill.
This coalition that supports PRO-IP is indicative of the broad support and the need for passage of such legislation. I urge my colleagues to heed the words and vote in favor of this important legislation.