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White House Battles Trademark, Copyright Infringement

Obama administration aims to stop intellectual property violators with a multi-agency, international initiative.
The Obama administration has launched an effort to protect intellectual property by working across agencies and nations to fight civil and criminal violations of trademark and copyright infringement.

The issue is an especially important one for the technology industry, which lost $50 billion globally last year to software piracy alone, according to the Business Software Alliance, which releases a report on the topic each year.

The web also is a catalyst for IP violations, allowing people to illegally download copyrighted music, video, and computer games.

The Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement -- launched Tuesday by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary Janet Napolitano and Vice President Joe Biden -- hopes to ease some of these violations.

The plan calls for better communication between law enforcement agencies and those affected by copyright and trademark infringement, such as industry leaders, the general public, and international partners, according to a statement from the DHS.

It also aims to enhance the collaboration between international organizations and law-enforcement officials and the United States to crack down on IP violations, as well as to dedicate agency resources to improving data collection to enforce infringement laws.

While the administration's effort is an attempt to stymie trademark and copyright infringement on many fronts, it will certainly resonate with the technology industry. Large technology vendors, such as Microsoft in particular, have worked closely with law enforcement to crack down on software piracy both in the United States and overseas.

The U.S. Secret Service is responsible for investigating violations of laws relating to counterfeiting that affect IT, including issues like access-device fraud, identity theft, computer fraud, and computer-based attacks on our nation's financial, banking, and critical infrastructure.

The Secret Service is one of the agencies whose resources are being deployed as part of the administration's new agency-wide effort, according to the DHS. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection also will be key to the plan.

The federal government already has in place an ICE-run center called the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center that unites multiple government agencies in the effort. Since the beginning of the year, IP-protection work by the ICE has yielded 166 criminal arrests, 56 indictments, 34 convictions, and 1,078 seizures valued at more than $358 million, according to the DHS.